In January and February in Paris, you’ll find it’s not unusual for people to take the day off work to go shopping and wait in ridiculous queues to get into the stores – it is after all, Les Soldes. It is sort of like Black Friday in the US – but it lasts for about a month!
Of all the iconic places in Paris you can enjoy les soldes, Galeries Lafayette is certainly among the best! I tend to spend a lot of time in this fabulous department store because of my brilliant friend, Azaa Incerto. She heads up a department of International marketing at the Paris Galeries Lafayette and we have known each other for many years. She always keeps me in the loop as to what is happening in the store and better yet – what exciting things I can offer my clients. Azaa tells me that during les soldes over 200,000 people a day come through the doors… on a normal day it’s around 100,000 people.
So, how did Galeries Lafayette get to be so big and so popular? The history is quite impressive when you consider that it is still owned by a private family. In fact, it was founded by two cousins: Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn who opened the doors in 1893 as a novelty shop. In 1912 the five floor atrium was officially inaugurated with its stunning 33-metre high glass dome that causes mass chaos trying to navigate the cosmetics department between hundreds of cameras all pointing up, of course. Throw in the 100,000 people a day and you get the picture!
A store like Galeries Lafayette does not grow solely on people walking through the door to see the magnificent décor. The one thing this store does best is get out there and get people talking about it. In 1919 aviator Jules Védrines was awarded 25,000 Francs for landing his plane on the roof in a rather clever marketing campaign. Surviving two world wars, the store celebrated economic recovery in 1948 by again having a plane land on the roof, this time flown by flown by André Labarthe. In 1950 Edith Piaf sang La Vie en Rose at Galeries Lafayette to bring some happiness back into daily Parisian life…
There are so many facets to this department store it is utterly mind boggling. If you enjoy art there is always an exhibition in Galerie des Galereis – the in house art gallery. Wine tasting…done – in fact Galeries Lafayette has Bordeauxthèque which is a netherworld of what else? Bordeaux wine with bottles priced from €7.00 to €25,000.00. Home décor, check. Fashion show – yep! Food – don’t even get me started! From Angelina’s to some of the finest sushi in Paris – it’s all here. Luxury shopping – off the charts ridiculous in La Suite, the private top floor apartment overlooks Paris with gorgeous views of the Sacré Coeur from the massive private terrace. There is also a rooftop terrace for the general public who visit the store which offers fabulous free views over the city. Throw in champagne and lunch and you have yourself one fab girl’s day out… and did I mention the newly redesigned lingerie department that makes you feel as if you are engulfed in the most elegant boudoir on the 4th floor? Last but not least, souvenirs – they have these too and actually have some of the best and most unique souvenirs you can find in Paris – 6th floor so you can hit it on your way to take in the view from the roof!
By Lisa Buros-Hutchins of Experience France.
Read more about Galeries Lafayette which celebrated it’s 100th birthday in 2012