Early start on Day 4. Groggy but excited, we headed off to Paris- the city of lights!
The plan was to visit the Galeries Lafayette – the second most visited place in Paris after the Eiffel tower- and the quintessence of French chic and “savoir vivre”.
A welcoming drink was waiting for us on the rooftop.
We were then greeted by a guide who took us on a tour of the iconic Haussmann store.
Here are some interesting facts we were told during the tour:
- The company was founded in 1895. It was a small haberdasher’s shop – no bigger than 70 sq.m- located at the corner of the rue Lafayette and the Chaussee d’Antin in Paris. Today, the Haussmann store spreads over 70,000 sq.m. and sells about 1.5m products and 3,500 brands from all over the world.
- The Galeries is a family affair. It is still owned by the founding family. Philippe Houzé, an INSEAD alumn married to the granddaughter of the founder is the chairman of the Executive Board of the group.
- The dome is the iconic landmark of the Galeries. Fashioned from steel and stained glass, the dome was inspired by Oriental design, a very popular style at the time of its construction in the early 1900’s. Several pillars hold it up. Where each pillar meets the dome stands a blazon. Each blazon represents a certain region of France that contributed to the fashion industry at the time.
- The double revolution staircase, another key landmark of the department store was removed in 1974 after trade unionists chained themselves to the banisters, to protest against working conditions at the time.
- The rooftop was the theatre of many fascinating tales over the last century. In January 1919, French aviator Jules Védrines even landed his plane on the terrace.
Today, the Galeries grows walls of organic strawberries as well as other organic fruits and vegetables. 1 KG of strawberries is sold for 70 euros!
At the end of the tour, Fabienne and Edouard from the Galeries Lafayette made a presentation on the business model of the Galeries and the challenges associated with selling products to many different customers in a highly competitive market. Some key takeaways from the presentation:
- The Galeries not only serves the luxury segment but also the masses in line with the founder’s mission of bringing affordable fashion and “chic parisien” to everyone … “You don’t need to spend a lot of money to be chic. Everybody can be chic. You just need a good eye.” said Fabienne.
The Galeries goes to a great extent to customize its services in order to appeal to a wide variety of international customers. “Serving so many different customers in France and in our stores abroad is really a challenge. Just imagine the challenge of having to satisfy up to 200,000 customers from all over the world in the Haussman store every day.” further commented Fabienne.
For example, customers from the Middle East have their own VIP lounge, in-store access to tax refund and Halal food is widely available in the many restaurants of the department store. American customers also have a dedicated lounge- lounge is part of the American culture, we were told. They are many but only a few are VIPs. “Convincing managers of investing space and money into serving a segment that don’t spend much money was hard! ” added Edouard.
- Aside from its core activities, the Galeries invests in several initiatives in the environment and in the Arts. The Haussman store even has an art gallery – the only store in Paris to have one.
By the end of the presentation, Fabienne generously offered us some gift bags including a 10% discount card for use at the Haussmann store. Thanks to you all at the Galeries! We will be back next week for some shopping!
Auhood, Eric, Rawdha, Saeed, Sanjana