Today I finally got round to visiting the new Marks&Sparks shop on Champs Elysées. I suppose it is part of my heritage being half-British? I have never actually lived in the UK but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoy British retailing.
Like the Parisians, I was quite pleased with the announcement of Marks & Spencer return to Paris. M&S had left in 2001 closing 18 stores in France. They had a wonderful store located right in front of the Galeries Lafayette. All the bigger was the disappointment upon walking into the new store.
I am not sure what the Brits favourite M&S products are but abroad M&S is highly appreciated by locals and foreigners for the food selection: party treats, Christmas delicacies, childrens' birthday food. Sometimes, you went and bought something just to spoil yourself.
Thanks to M&S the French forgot to count the calories. The streaky bacon sizzled merrily on the Sunday breakfast farmer's egg. The tea was organic, which in those days was difficult to find in Paris. The biscuits and cakes were, it seemed, entirely made of food additives, refined sugar and chemical dyes approved by the European Commission.
And now, M & S is back.
Boy, what a shock to see the food department which is more like a cave (120m2!!!), relegated to the back of the store, no larger than your local kiosk. In fact, food was added almost at the last minute. Originally, the store was supposed to establish the reputation of M&S in fashion. In Paris? You have got to be kidding? What reputation, I am wondering when they have H&M, Promod and Massimo Dutti just to name a few fashion houses that are located literally next to them. (Louis Vuitton is opposite!) It was only after a sort of spontaneous campaign by email that the company freed up space for food. Which represented already 35% of sales in the first week instead of 10% forecast.
Inside, most visitors were in line for the food department. Not one customer purchased clothing while I was standing in line at the ladies department for 1/2 hour with my mince meat pies because the food dept could not cope with the floods of people emptying the food shelves.
Whichever retail guru set up the M&S France development strategy should be relocated back to the UK fast or else improvise and remodel his 1400m2 "flagship" shop fast. Every weekend, about a million people invade the Champs Elysées. For all the rent I am sure they cashing out, it is a pity that neither the image, the quality nor the shopping experience is worthy of M&S label.
Even if it means selling hot cross buns in December!!!!