The philosophy behind the reopening of La Samaritaine was not so much to resurrect a department store, but to create a destination. At first, for those who wanted to return to the Paris of their memories. In vain. Then, very quickly, for the different types of tourists who, for the most part, only see it as an array of international luxury brands similar to that offered by duty-free shops in airports. The difference is that La Samaritaine is not sitting on a tarmac, but in the heart of the French capital.
Isn’t Paris becoming an open-air airport with streams of visitors on their way to Eurodisney, the Loire châteaux or Mont-Saint Michel? A transit hub dedicated to shopping and fooding, in all its possible forms, from street food to roof-tops, pop-ups and gigastores. Just look at the transformation of some districts into shopping centers or the (recent) proliferation of cafés in museum patios to be convinced. It is not impossible that one day (soon) it will become more desirable to enjoy a pastry inspired by a work of art than to go and see it in a museum. A quicker experience for the travellers concerned about keeping to a busy schedule that must (inevitably) be optimised.
The heritage Paris, tangible and historical, made up of monuments, museums, urban furniture and neighbourhoods, gives way to an evoked Paris, an addition of signs, quotations and allusions supposed to maintain local folklore. A theatrical setting in front of which fashion and luxury brands perform, wishing to forget their international reality for the duration of a local performance. A bit like a world famous star who occasionally sings in French to assert their proximity. Lampposts, Morris columns, cobblestones, book boxes of the Seine riverside and bistro fronts are conveyed on the shelves of La Samaritaine as well as in the Swatch flagship that just opened on the Champs-Elysées, where screens broadcast images recreating the atmosphere of a shopping street…
All retailers dream of offering their customers immersive experiences. For some, we should talk more about allusive experiences.