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Paris: Top 5 store picks

This week I am delighted to bring you a blog from one of Australia’s most experienced retail marketing experts, Stephen Kulmar of RetailOasis. Stephen’s blogs are a continual source of inspiration for me, and many other like-minded lovers of all things retail and we hope you enjoy this whirlwind tour of Parisian retailers.

Last week we went all over Paris looking for the best in retail – trying to steer away from the stuff we’ve all heard of before and looking for what we think is up and coming. So here’s our picks:

1.Tom Greyhound (19 Rue de Saintonge): This is the first international store for the Seoul-based retail concept; and it’s seriously amazing. What’s even more amazing is that the brand is owned by Hyundai’s fashion division called ‘Handsome’. It opened 3 months ago, in a 360 square meter space in the Marais.

It’s worthy of being put in the same league as the iconic Parisian boutique Colette. The store is a mix of highly edited menswear, womenwear and accessories. Stocking labels like Maison Martin Margiela and Thakoon. When we visited they were also hosting an art exhibition on their second level. David Kang, Tom Greyhound’s MD for France, says the store is a bit of an experiment to help them move into other markets like the US. So stay tuned, we think this is a winning concept.

2. Twins for Peace (81 Rue Vielle du Temple): This is a concept a bit like Tom’s Shoes. Twins for Peace is the brain child of French Twins – Maxime and Alexandre Mussard who are descents of the Hermès Family. The idea is for every sneaker sold, a pair of locally and sustainably produced shoes are given to a child in need. Plus, a percentage of sales goes towards medical and education provisions in developing countries. This is summed up in their tag line ‘Be Cool. Be Good’. The focus in this is very much on the ‘cool’ factor of the shoe. For example, they recently collaborated with US creative force Opening Ceremony. To quote one of the twins, Maxime ‘I want people to buy the product because they think it’s elegant, the charity aspect is a bonus’. The store is a reflection of this ethos.

3. Naturalia (various locations): This is a chain of over 80 ‘bio’ (organic) grocery stores. The original Naturalia store was started in the 1970s and since then has spread throughout Paris, the North-East and South-East of France. Naturalia, like Wholefoods in the US, feels like more of a way of life than a store. Everything they do is transparent – from the sourcing of their product to pricing. The presentation is inline with it’s vision to be an organic supermarket (even down to their catalogue) but even better are the people who work in the stores – they live and breath the brand. For a chain with over 80 stores it still feels like a co-op.

4. Du Pain et Des Idees (34 Rue Yves Toudic): We’re voting this the best boulangerie in Paris, not just for the food but the presentation. This bakery dates back to 1889, but was given a new lease on life by former fashion industry executive turned-baker Christophe Vasseur (in fact his bread is served at Alain Ducasse in Plaza Athene). This is a bakery that can charge $5 for a pastry escargot from it’s presentation alone (by the time we had arrived at 2pm they had nearly sold out of everything). They’ve returned the bakery back to it’s former glory – keeping the presentation and atmosphere simple and authentic (quite a rarity in Paris, while bakeries try to go upscale by making themselves look more like jewellery stores).

5. Sephora Institut (79 Blvd St Germain): So Sephora is old-hat, but their venture into service is not. They’ve added in a beauty institute in their St Germain Store. This is allowing them to extend their partnership with brands like Clarins, Decleor etc. from product into actual trial with the customer. You can book a service while you’re in store or ring ahead. The service is not cheap either – ranging from a 65 Euro facial using Clarins product through to 900 euros for 15 session of LPG system body sculpting. This is a great move on the part of Sephora to extend their offer, basket size and reasons to visit the store.

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