We spent last week in Paris scouring the best retail. There’s a lot happening over here particularly with department stores.
The future of the department stores seems to be an eternal question in the Australian market. In Paris we think there maybe some answers in the way of two great examples, Le Bon Marché (left bank store owned by LVMH) and BHV/Marais (right bank store owned by Groupe Galleries Lafayette). Over the past few years, both have undergone massive evolutions – renovations of both store and e-commerce, branding, assortment etc – to the point that they look nothing like the first time we visited them more than 10 years ago.
These two stores have a couple of things in common we see as key learnings for the Australian market:
1. Act like a local: Yes, these aren’t chained branded store but they are part of big holding companies who have chosen to use the stores as ‘village beacons’. They are the epitome of the areas they ‘live in’. Le Bon Marché’s offer and set-up embodies left-bank sophistication. It’s highly polished and exhibits a bit of old-world class. Whereas, BHV/Marais embodies this more bohemian part of Paris, it’s younger and more free-spirited. The buying and assortment in these stores reflect this difference ie. Le Bon Marché has a Celine oncession in it; were as BHV has Topshop.
2. Think like the shopper: These stores have re-arranged themselves for the shopper. It’s not about traditional departments but rather products that belong together or are probably bought together. For example, in the lingerie department of Le Bon Marché there is a nail bar or magazine stand in the contemporary fashion area.
3. Move like your neighbouring stores: These stores don’t move like department stores (slow and steady – competing with each other), rather they’re more like the nimble high street stores that surround them. For example, BHV has set up a bike store, a motorcycle store and pet store across the road from it’s main store as smaller, more focused outlets. This makes them feel like they belong on high street. It also feels like they aren’t measuring themselves off the next department store, it looks like they’re measuring themselves off the neighbourhood they are competing within.
These two stores are great examples of where the current of department store could be – a place both brands have taken risk and invested a lot to get to.