“Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.” Honoré De Balzac
A few months ago Dsquared2 opened its second store in Paris, rue des St Pères. This one comes five years after the opening of the flagship store of rue St Honoré (1 on the map below).
Was there a need for this new opening? Surely the company has done its market research by analysing sales, consumer trends…May be it is making a killing in sales, yet, each time I visited the new store it was – unlike the other one – empty.
Now of course you often need to give time to any venture to take off. Word of mouth, online discussions…contribute to the expansion. Yet, it is also possible to see a store eventually close as we have seen with the D2 Cannes boutique, or in the way major brands like Ralph Lauren are having to do around the world.
I have to admit that I wouldn’t have gambled on this particular location (2 below) myself.
Paris is a quirky city, and its socio-geography obeys some very subtle rules invisible to the untrained eye, let alone the tourist. You need to realise that despite the “social inclusion” leitmotiv of the French Republic, France is a profoundly divided society, where classes, educational backgrounds, ethnic groups, religious communities, political families…do not really mix, and often live within the boundaries of unofficially reserved territories.
Why such a remark? Because the new store is located on the left bank, still within the 6th arrondissement but close to the border with the 7th, which might be utterly charming, away from the cheapness of Boulevard St Michel, the louche bustle of Montparnasse, the lethargy of the 15th arrondissement, but which in terms of its inhabitants is mostly “Old France” with a sprinkle of “Bobo” culture (the latter in this area mostly students).
By old France I mean Parisians for generations, Catholic, quasi-aristocratic, tweed-wearing, educated, model families with three or four kids. By Bobo I am referring to the “Bourgeois-Boheme” phenomenon of arty, social-democrat, world-traveller, urban, faitrade/organic foodie, a tad pretentious, media savvy, thirty-somethings.
And both of these groups are very unlikely to wear Dsquared2. The former buys its corduroy and riding jackets at Metez (near Madeleine), the former mixes and matches childhood items (kickers, duffle coats…) and designers like Paul&Joe or Zadig&Voltaire. The cheeky prints and big logos emblematic of D2 would seem out of place in both communities.
Now you could say, stores are not designed to cater exclusively for locals. True in general, but this particular district is not an area where throngs of people from France and abroad stroll around all afternoon drooling in front of high-end shop windows, and end up making a big purchase carried away by the smell of luxury. Here, a few trendy people might venture to the Bon Marché nearby (historically the first department store in the world, and my Grand Parents’ favourite), but with a set idea in mind: “I want to buy this or that”. As I said the back streets nearby are much more frequented by locals and students. Not a great pool of potential D2 shoppers.
Now, where would I have located a second store? Well If such a new store was really needed then I can think of two places: St Germain des prés, or le Marais.
- St Germain des prés is actually really close to the current shop, but the area is a much more landmark location where Parisians and tourists alike follow the steps of the world known artists and writers who once upon a time spent most of their days – and nights – drinking, smoking and discussing philosophy at the Café de Flore or the Deux Maggots. It’s along this big artery called Boulevard St Germain, that in recent years names like Louis Vuitton or Ralph Lauren have opened stores. In my opinion this would have provided a bigger pool of people with money and good tastes from all over the world.
- My second bet would have been the Marais, but for a mini-boutique, or a themed one. This is historically the Jewish quarter, and in the last decades it has also become a gay village. Two groups that are definitely interested in D2. French Sefardi love their brands, and since the 80’s have been wearing (by tradition, often selling too) the coolest labels of each era. Gays, well, if you read this you probably knew that a lot of Dsquared2 fans are of the orientation, seduced by the openly sexual feel of the brand in terms of cuts, colours and prints.
The problem of location 1 is that it probably costs a fortune (not that the existing location doesn’t, I assume) and vacancies must be a rarity. The problem with location 2 is that it is still on the right bank, when clearly D2 wanted to spread across the river, and the potential customer base there, albeit dedicated, well-off and loyal, would still relatively limited in terms of numbers. This is why a small boutique focusing on underwear, on gay-oriented items, or also a ‘denim store’ could have be a good idea.
Well, at the end of the day the new store might make it. We certainly hope it does, and next time we’re am in Paris we’ll make sure to purchase stuff there.
Now, we will see in another post very soon (D2 in France – Part 2) that there is another category, numerically massive, which probably provides the majority of customers for D2 in France: “les jeunes des banlieues“, which means young second/third generation immigrants from the tower blocks in the outskirts of big cities. Not places you want to set up shop. However targeting these customers means big money. This is another day’s discussion, stay put….
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