By Dominique Vidalon
France’s chic department store Galeries Lafayette is betting on an art foundation and an Italian gourmet food hall in Paris to help differentiate its brand from bricks-and-mortar rivals and e-commerce competitors
The French capital is attracting a wave of investment into luxury stores and premium food halls as retailers seek to capitalize on a rebound in a tourism industry that was badly hurt by a wave of militant attacks in 2015 and 2016.
The foundation, Lafayette Anticipations, opened on March 10 and Galeries Lafayette plans to open its first Italian food emporium, Eataly, next February near the foundation and its BHV Marais lifestyle department store in the Marais district.
“We are building an ecosystem around the BHV store,” said Nicolas Houze, head of the family owned Galeries Lafayette group, which has revenue of 3.8 billion euros ($4.67 billion) and owns BHV Marais.
Galeries Lafayette is part of a club of French high-end retailers turning to gastronomy to lure more people through their doors. It already has a food court at its flagship Boulevard Haussmann store, where foreigners account for half of its clientele.
Le Printemps in January opened a food hall on the 7th and 8th floors of its Haussmann building dedicated to men’s fashion and luxury group LVMH opened a second upmarket La Grande Epicerie store in Paris’s posh 16th district last year.
“With Eataly and the foundation we are creating a shopping destination. We are building an offer much larger than that of BHV,” said Guillaume Pats, head of buying for BHV Marais
Galeries Lafayette has the exclusive franchise in France for Eataly, the premium chain renowned for selling Italian truffles, wines and pastas around the world.
The three-storey food hall, now under construction, will spread over 3,500 square meters and include seven restaurants serving 2,500 meals a day, a courtyard fruit and vegetable market, cafes and a cellar with more than 800 Italian wines.
Pats said it would draw hip locals and tourists for whom “Italian food is a safe haven abroad”.
The art foundation, which has moving floors and includes an exhibition tower made of glass, metal and concrete, is located in a 19th-century industrial building and hosts art exhibits and performances. It has a working budget of 21 million euros for the next five years and cost 12 million euros to remodel.
($1 = 0.8140 euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Richard Lough and David Goodman)