Jan 31, 2007, 09:38 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
This isn't Victoria-related, but interesting to think about anyway. There's an article in yesterday's New York Times
, [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/world/europe/31paris.html?ex=1327899600&en=eab4fe31618762a9&ei= 5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss:b251f]Megastores March Up Avenue, and Paris Takes to Barricades[/url:b251f], about local business getting squeezed off the Champs-Elysees in Paris, trash tourists (and, some say, "trash" suburban kids) flocking to the Champs-Elysees to "destroy" its authentic Parisian feel, with the city government making laws to prevent further penetration by the multinationals. What's going on there is of a scale that Victoria won't get to know, but you have to wonder what happens when rents get too high for mom-and-pop operators or when locals feel that a city's street isn't theirs anymore. What's very interesting is that at least one local says it's all BS, and that there's still plenty of flavour to go around. But there's no denying that the deeper pockets rule, creating a kind of mono-culture. Some excerpts:
...the road where de Gaulle celebrated France’s liberation from the Nazis, the one known as “the most beautiful avenue on earth,” has, like Times Square and Oxford Street in London, turned into a commercialized money trap. |
Most of the music clubs are gone. Movie theaters are closing. Sometimes, all that seems to be left on the 1.2-mile stretch are the global chain stores that can afford the rent.
The decision [to ban the Swedish clothing giant H&M from opening a megastore on the avenue] is intended to slow the invasion of retail clothing stores and to preserve what is left of the diverse character of the most visited site in France, after the Eiffel Tower.
“We were losing our sense of balance,” said François Lebel, a deputy mayor who administers the part of the city that includes the Champs-Élysées. “Drastic action was needed. We don’t have anything against H&M. It just happens to be the first victim.”
In a sense, the avenue is a victim of its own success. With rents as high as $1.2 million a year for 1,000 square feet of space, the Champs-Élysées is the most expensive strip of real estate in Europe and the third most expensive in the world, after Fifth Avenue in New York and Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, making it impossible for most small businesses to even consider setting up shop there.
Multinationals have no such problem. Adidas opened its largest store in the world on the Champs-Élysées last fall. Gap, Benetton, Naf Naf, the Disney Store, Nike, Zara, a Virgin Megastore and Sephora occupy major spaces. Car manufacturers including Toyota, Renault and Peugeot have huge showrooms that display flashy prototypes and serve largely as walk-in advertisements. Low-end fast-food chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Quick do high-volume business.
And things seem only to be getting more expensive. The opening of luxury showpieces like Cartier in 2003, Louis Vuitton’s five-story flagship store in 2005 and the Fouquet’s Barrière hotel last year (the least expensive room is nearly $900 a night) have given the avenue new glitter.
Many other merchants lament that the move to save the avenue has come too late. “High-class Parisians don’t want to come to the Champs-Élysées,” said Serge Ghnassia, owner of the fur shop Milady, which opened on the Champs-Élysées in 1933. “It’s not prestigious; it’s not pleasant. The people who come are very common, very ordinary, very cheap. They come for a kebab sandwich and a five-euro T-shirt.” [edit: shades of Gov't St. T-shirt shop laments?]
But some old-timers praise the avenue as a sort of democratic — and free — tourist destination for the underprivileged. “The kids coming from the suburbs are coming from the suburbs to look, to see, to escape the places where they live,” Mr. Schpoliansky said. “We are a multiethnic country, and that reality is reflected on our street.”
[re. the decision to ban H&M:] H&M, which already has nine stores in Paris, had hired Jean Nouvel, a leading French architect, to design the 37,000-square-foot space in what once housed offices of Club Med.
The company has suggested that it will appeal.
But the ruling followed a study for the city of Paris last November that found that 39 percent of the avenue’s street-front retail space was filled with clothing stores.
“The avenue progressively is losing its exceptional and symbolic character, thus its attractiveness,” the study warned, predicting that if the trend continued, the Champs-Élysées would become as tacky as Oxford Street.
That gloomy assessment is not shared by Christophe Pinguet, the director of the Shortcut public relations agency and one of the two dozen remaining residents of the Champs-Élysées. From the terrace of his top-floor apartment, Mr. Pinguet looks out on the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.
“I know shops nobody knows,” he said. “I know the butcher who delivers meat to Jacques Chirac. I know the police who dress like spies. Sure, the Champs-Élysées can be cheap. But it’s not a museum. The battle shouldn’t be to keep H&M out. It should be to make sure it’s fabulous.”
Weird, eh? I kind of agree with Mr. Pinguet's idealism (for that's what his assessment boils down to), but I bet realistically there's a reason for the fretting. The fur-store owner (Mr. Ghnassia) sounds like a right snob, though.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.