It’s certainly an unusual time to be a department store. While names as legendary as Neiman Marcus and JC Penney have struggled since the pandemic, smaller ones like Century 21 are rising from the dead while still others bravely step forward and conquer new markets.
One such brand is Printemps, a French luxury department store chain. The chain competes with Galeries Lafayette – its main store is located on the same stretch of Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and also has a popular rooftop terrace overlooking the Opera and the fashionable ninth arrondissement.
On Wednesday, the management of Printemps announced that it had set its sights on the American market and planned to open a store in New York.
Located at One Wall Street in New York’s Financial District, the flagship US location will occupy two floors and over 54,000 square feet of space. If all goes as planned, it should open in the spring of 2024.
Le Printemps exists since 1865
Although Printemps (the word for “spring” in French) has been around since 1865 and is a well-known name among the French, it is not as synonymous with “French fashion” as many other brands in North America.
The US store, said Groupe Printemps CEO Jean-Marc Bellaiche, will be key to changing that perception and beginning what the company hopes will be greater global expansion.
There are currently 20 Printemps stores, four affiliates and one point of sale across France. The financial district location is likely a trial run that will test how a famous French “department store” will work with an American luxury shopper.
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“The United States is essential in our international development strategy and opening in New York offers great visibility and growth potential,” Bellaiche said in a statement. “We believe we can bring something unique, both to its committed local consumer base and to the strong tourist flows the city welcomes.”
Laura Lendrum, who previously served as President of North American Markets for Saint Laurent, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, has been chosen to be the first CEO of Printemps Americas.
Can Printemps do what Galeries Lafayette could not?
The idea of a legendary French department store testing its luck with American shoppers is not new. In 1991, Galeries Lafayette attempted to open its first American store near Trump Tower on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.
The polarizing and often negative connotations with Trump would not arise until more than two decades later, but the French fashion house still closed its doors in 1994 after failing to make sales to justify the high cost of land amid a plethora of other luxury shopping options. on Fifth Avenue.
“It was never quintessentially French,” Ellin Saltzman, who was then fashion director for competitor Bergdorf Goodman, told The New York Times in 1991. “They didn’t have the bargain and the treasures you can find at Galeries Lafayette in Paris.”
While the next 30 years brought with them an endless list of changes, Printemps will still face the same basic problem of getting customers to choose your department store over another.
Time will tell if they choose to lean into the “French chic” image so romanticized by Americans or try something completely different, like new pop-ups or a digital strategy.
“We plan to pioneer a new experiential retail format in this demanding and rapidly changing market,” Bellaiche said.