Galeries Lafayette Unveils Department Store in Beijing

The interior of the Galeries Lafayette flagship store in Paris. Photo: Gryffindor for Wikimedia Commons

The interior of the Galeries Lafayette flagship store in Paris. Photo: Gryffindor for Wikimedia Commons

The popular French department chain Galeries Lafayette has unveiled a new location in Beijing. After a 15-year hiatus, the company has returned to operations in China. Their previous store in the country had remained open only a year.

The store will be the company’s second-largest location. At six floors and with more than 350,000 square feet of retail space, it comes in second only to the retailer’s flagship store in Paris.

The opening is an effort to capitalize on the emerging fashion market in Beijing. The focus is more on fast-moving trends and contemporary fashion, rather than an orientation towards more traditional luxury styles. Notably absent from the Beijing store will be high-end brands like Cartier, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, which have received negative attention in China due to association with corruption among Communist Party officials.

The retailer is hoping to appeal to fashion-conscious young people, and will include niche brands to cater to this specific consumer group.

“We have luxury brands, but not only luxury brands,” said Laurent Chemla, chief executive of the Beijing division of Galeries Lafayette. “Our aim is to bring more new and different fashion choices to Chinese consumers.”

The opening is also an effort to combat weak consumer spending back in France, its home market. Decline in revenue has pushed the retailer’s effort to expand internationally, in order to target wealthy international consumers.

The retailer’s strategy is an interesting one, as Galeries Lafayette seems to be honing on its “tourism” appeal. The department store is a huge draw for Chinese tourists in France, who make up a significant percentage of visitors. The transfer of tourism dollars to the tourists’ home country remains hopeful, as executives look to see whether the appeal will translate abroad. It’s a question of brand loyalty, but Galeries Lafayette remains optimistic.

“I foresee a slow but sure growth of this market,” said Philippe Houzé, executive chairman of Galeries Lafayette Group.

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