La Samaritaine, the historic Paris department store complex that LVMH shuttered eight years ago over safety concerns, is undergoing a major makeover. According to WSJ, renovations will not be completed until 2016 and will cost the luxury goods group almost $600 million. The retailer believes the ability to combine its first DFS duty-free emporium in Europe with its first five-star Cheval Blanc hotel in the city will be worth the effort.
There is still some speculation as to how exactly the 860,000 square-foot complex will all be used. About 300,000 square feet are designated for retail space, according to public documents. Two midsize stores – DFS and Louis Vuitton – and one department store, as of yet unidentified, will take up that space according to insiders.
The Cheval Blanc will offer approximately 90 suites in the best part of the complex, overlooking the river and with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Office and residential space will also be included. About 10 percent of the space in La Samaritaine will be used for new social housing and a day care center, altruistic gestures that some believe helped the project get approval from the city, while associations of local residents are trying to block the construction because of their displeasure with designs for one of the buildings.
The goal of the redevelopment is to lure tourists, particularly Chinese tourists, away from the typical hotspots like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. To this end, LVMH is hoping to give DFS entranceways that are large enough to accommodate tour buses and offer multilingual staff and tax-free cash registers.
“It’s essential to welcome tourism shopping in Paris, not just for the luxury industry but for the entire French economy,” said Pierre Raynal, head of the retail division at real-estate firm Cushman & Wakefield in France. Raynal reported that eight million Chinese tourists a year are expected to visit, compared to the current one million.
DFS’s top clientele are already the Chinese. Its merchandise blend of clothing, accessories, and beauty products from brands like Burberry, Chanel, and LVMH’s Louis Vuitton are favorites of Asian tourists.
Raynal also said that tourists now account for 30 percent of purchases along the Rue de Rivoli, which borders one side of the La Samaritaine complex, compared with 10 percent five years ago.
photo credit: trekearth, rentals-paris