BEIJING Oct 18 France's Galeries Lafayette has
unveiled a swish department store in Beijing housing brands it
says will lure fashionistas, foregoing names like Cartier that
have found themselves associated with China's crackdown on
At the store's official inauguration in the downtown Xidan
district, the upscale retailer said on Friday it's chasing a new
breed of fashion-obsessed customers in China, rather than luxury
Three years in the making, at a cost of 42 million euros
($57 million), the store is Galeries Lafayette's second-biggest
after its Paris flagship. The retailer is returning to China 15
years after shuttering a store that was open for only a year.
Lesser-known but trendy Paris labels like The Kooples and
Maje are for sale in the six-floor building, while luxury names
like Richemont's Cartier, LVMH's Louis
Vuitton and Chanel are absent.
Others like Coach Inc's eponymous brand, Kering's
Gucci and Prada's own-brand goods are
available at the 47,000-square-meter store, which has been open
for business since Sept. 28.
The brand selection has allowed family-owned Galeries
Lafayette, and its 50-50 joint-venture partner, Hong Kong-based
I.T Limited, to skirt the issue of selling brands that have
attracted negative attention during an on-going anti-corruption
campaign launched by the Chinese government last year.
"Of course, you know dealing with this problem in China, we
respect the legal aspects of the country, but you know we are
aiming at fashion addict customers," Galeries Lafayette's
chairman Philippe Houze said at a news conference in the store
on Friday. "They don't care about corruption."
"We are not a luxury store. We are a fashion store," Houze
said. He was speaking before an evening reception to mark the
event due to be attended by personalities from French movie
actress Audrey Tautou to Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former prime
minister of France.
In particular, luxury watches like those made by Cartier
have been associated with extravagance and graft among Communist
Party officials, now the subject of increased government
One official, nicknamed "Watch Brother" in the local press,
was spotted sporting a variety of luxury timepieces, convicted
of corruption in September and given a 14-year jail sentence.
The campaign's effect on luxury spending has been hard to
measure, analysts say. But a survey of Chinese consumers by CLSA
found that roughly 30 percent said they would curb their
spending on jewelry and watches in the event of any
Facing weak consumer spending in its home market, Galeries
Lafayette has begun rolling out glitzy stores in international
capitals in an effort to target customers with money to spend in
emerging markets. It now has stores in Jakarta and Dubai, and
operates 65 Galeries Lafayette outlets in total, with total
revenue of 2.3 billion euros last year.
The company has also sought out new strategies to breathe
new life into the department store business model, squeezed in
recent decades by the fashion and luxury brands it sells rolling
out their own stores.
Earlier this year it hired avant-garde Spanish movie
director Pedro Almodovar to be the 'face' of a campaign to
promote its menswear departments. Its flagship store in Paris is
currently hosting an external gallery of large digital images
chosen by Italian label Diesel's designer Nicola Formichetti,
best known for his work with pop diva Lady Gaga.
($1 = 0.7319 euros)
(Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)