Beanz Meanz … ???
REMEMBER THE ADVERTISING slogan, “Beanz Meanz Heinz” ? A corruption of the English language maybe, but a classic nevertheless. In Paris though Beanz Meanz … something quite different.
Tins of Heinz baked beans stacked on shelves – and where would you expect to find them – in a supermarket? No, these beans are to be found where you would least expect them … in a bookshop in Paris!
Established in 1903 and claiming to be the largest English bookshop in Paris, W H Smith, The English Bookshop as they style themselves, is to be found at the corner of the rue Rivoli and the rue Cambon.
The ground floor of the bookshop is much as you would expect – a wide range of books, novels ranked by author from A to Z, new releases, a travel section, a crime section as well as a wide range of magazines and English newspapers.
Climbing the wooden staircase to the first floor though brings a surprise.
The sounds inside WH Smith:
As well as selling English language books, WH Smith is capitalising on the rising demand in France for things British and particularly British food.
Fueled by expats who want food that reminds them of home and by the increasing popularity of Le Snacking, the Anglo-Saxon style snacks, fast food and sandwiches that are encroaching on the traditional French long sit-down lunches, sales of British food are booming.
On the first floor of WH Smith, bookshelves have given way to a cornucopia of British specialities – OXO cubes, Walker’s shortbread, Twining’s tea, Cadbury’s cream eggs, McVities chocolate digestives, Lyle’s Golden Syrup, Mr Kipling cakes and the ever mysterious but highly popular, Marmite – to name but a few.
They still sell books on the first floor but the space occupied by food has increased at the expense of the space occupied by books.
If the appetite for British food in Paris continues I wonder if The English Bookshop that also sells food will one day become The English Food Shop that also sells books?
Although, at first sight, it does seem a little odd to sell food alongside books, there is no doubt that it is a success and, as an English expat, I admit to more than a whiff of nostalgia as I look at the shelves.
The real question though is, when will we see the arrival in Paris of that peculiarly English curiosity fish ‘n chips? I suspect that even WH Smith will not rise to that particular challenge!