Galeries Lafayette back in China after 15 years

French department store chain Galeries Lafayette opened its first store in Xidan, downtown Beijing, on Friday after downing the shutters on a previous store that was open for only one year. “Beijing is a totally different place compared with 15 years ago. The fashion market has been evolving very fast for the past five to six years and people here [in Beijing] have become more trendy and fashionable,” commented Laurent Chemla, chief executive of Galeries Lafayette (Beijing).

Beijing flagship is second biggest worldwide

The flagshipstore in Beijing is second in size and effort only to the one in Paris, having been planned and built for three years at a cost of 42 million euros. On six floors, the 47,000 square meter store houses more than 500 brands, among them Givenchy, Coach, Gucci and Prada and lesser known but popular Parisian labels like Delvaux, The Kooples and Maje.
Famously absent are brands like Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Chanel – partly to avoid the Chinese government’s crackdown on corruption in the luxury segment with the aforementioned brands having come under scrutiny – and partly due to Galerie Lafayette’s reorientation toward fashion rather than luxury.

“We are not a luxury store. We are a fashion store,” stated Philippe Houze, chairman of Galeries Lafayette at a news conference in the new store on Friday. He also admitted to “aiming at fashion addict customers” who “don’t care about corruption”.

The family-owned department store chain has teamed up with Hong Kong-based fashion distributor I.T Limited in a 50-50 joint-venture partnership. The Beijing store is the latest in a series of flagships in metropolises around the world, among them Dubai (opened in 2009), Casablanca in 2011 and Jakarta in 2013. Two more are planned in Turkey and Qatar by 2015.

Galeries Lafayette has been facing weak consumer spending in France and is thus targeting emerging markets, generating total revenues of 3.7 billion euros last year with 65 outlets worldwide.


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