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November 23, 2010

Galeries Lafayette

by soundlandscapes

I AM NOT A FAN of shopping but even I have to admit that a trip to the Galeries Lafayette is an experience – especially at Christmas.

Located in the Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement, close to the Opéra Garnier, the Galaries Lafayette welcomes around 100,000 visitors a day – more than Harrod’s in London or Bloomingdales in New York.

The sound of a walk through the Galeries Lafayette

Compared to its status today as a 70,000M2 ‘Temple of Shopping’ and Paris icon, the Galeries Lafayette had humble beginnings. In 1895, Albert Kahn rented a shop in Paris at the corner of Chaussée-d’Antin and rue Lafayette to sell gloves, ribbons, veils, and other goods. The shop was small, but sales were good. It was eventually enlarged, and in 1898 Kahn was joined by his cousin, 34-year-old Théophile Bader. The partnership flourished and they soon purchased the entire building along with adjacent buildings on the Chaussée-d’Antin. The Galeries Lafayette was born.

The magnificent glass dome and wrought iron balconies dominate one end of the store  – a vivid reminder of 19th century Paris – contrasting starkly with the clean-cut, up-market, brand-named, cosmetics counters that lie beneath.

The Galeries Lafayette is famed for its stylish window displays – no more so than at Christmas when crowds of people gather to see the show.

Today, the Galeries Lafayette is a magnet for tourists with the Chinese leading the way followed by Americans and then Japanese. A walk through the store reveals a cosmopolitan mix of people some of whom come just to look and others who come to spend, spend, spend!

It may have begun life as a modest corner shop, but the Galeries Lafayette, along with the other new-fangled 19th century department stores, Printemps, Bon Marché and La Samaritaine, started a revolution in retail shopping which continues today.

The sound of a walk outside past the window displays.

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