Economy

Trendy Clothing Giants Rebrand Paris’ Champs-Élysées

Banana Republic is sparing no expense for Thursday’s grand opening along the Champs-Élysées, where big-name apparel companies now occupy close to 50% of the highly coveted real estate. That’s in part because few others can afford the chic avenue’s sky hig

Window shopping along the Champs-Élysées in Paris
Window shopping along the Champs-Élysées in Paris
Caroline Sallé

PARIS - The black and white marble floor, Art Deco furniture, retro escalator and a series of neo-classical arcades evoke the grand department stores of the last century. For today's opening of its first boutique in France, at No. 22 on the prestigious Champs-Élysées, Banana Republic has spared no expense. The upscale American clothing brand, owned by Gap, even had a barge bring over a fleet of authentic New York taxis for the inauguration. Banana Republic, however, is not the first company to play this little game.

In October 2010, Swedish clothing giant H&M invested 50 million euros to install a 2,800-square-meter flagship on the famous Parisian avenue. Last May, Abercrombie & Fitch's inauguration was a bona fide event, marked by 101 shirt-free male models in front of their first French location, at 23 Champs-Élysées. More recently, at the end of November, Marks & Spencer returned to the prestigious strip, after a 10-year absence. The line to get into the store at the inauguration was several hundred meters long.

The world's fashion showcase, the Champs-Élysées? The high-end address, where some 100 million visitors stroll every year, is coveted by most clothing giants. "For the international fashion brands, it is the new strategic address in Paris, like the Grand Boulevards was 10 years ago," says Marc Bolland, the head of Marks & Spencer.

Exploding rents

Rumors are circulating about the arrival of Aigle and Levi's in February, and the likely arrival of Forever 21, The Kooples Sport or even a third Zara store. "We're on our way to having about 50% of the property be occupied by clothing brands," says Phillippe Vincent, founder and president of the consulting firm Clipperton Development. Five years ago, it was only 40%. If it's not a fashion invasion, it certainly resembles one. And nothing, not even the explosion of rental prices, seems to be able to stop it.

According to a study published in September by the International Real Estate company Cushman & Wakefield, the Parisian avenue once again became the most expensive commercial artery in Europe, with an average rental price of 7,376 euros per square meter. It is the fifth in the world. Vincent says it's worth it cent. "The brands gain credibility and visibility, as well as revenue."

Given that the rents are so high, "only the big luxury fashion brands can pay for the Champs," complains Lyne Cohen-Solal, an assistant to the Mayor's office in Paris in charge of commerce and artisans. "But the area's charm is based on diversity. A mixture of luxury, culture and activities. At this rate, it could end up like Oxford Street in London. Uniformity on the Champs-Élysées would mean the end to the most beautiful avenue in the world," Cohen-Solal worries.

Read the original story in French

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Mariam Nabattu, a religious studies teacher, must work at two schools in central Uganda to make ends meet.

Patricia Lindrio/GPJ Uganda
Edna Namara and Patricia Lindrio

KAMPALA — Allen Asimwe has dedicated more than two decades to teaching geography at a large public high school in southwestern Uganda. Her retirement age, as a public servant entitled to benefits, is just six years away.

She doubts she will wait that long.

“I am determined, I want to quit,” she says, calculating that she could earn more by shifting full time to the salon she opened six years ago to supplement her income. “Given the frustration, I cannot continue in class anymore.”

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