A department store is not an obvious location for a skate park but that is exactly what Le Bon Marché in Paris unveiled one evening this month — with a skateboarder showing off his moves on bright pink ramp suspended from the ceiling.
The soirée was to launch its Los Angeles Rive Gauche exhibition, in which Le Bon Marché has given itself a West Coast makeover. For the next few weeks it will celebrate all things LA: featuring pop-up stores and American brands in fashion, food, beauty, home, the store’s first-ever yoga studio — and even a tattoo artist.
“You have to give customers another reason beyond shopping to come to the store, such as an exhibition or collaboration,” said Patrice Wagner, chairman and chief executive of Le Bon Marché Group, which is recognised as the first-ever modern department store and was the inspiration for the luxury emporium in Emile Zola’s 1883 work Au Bonheur des Dames.
Despite its long history, the department store model is under scrutiny as profits and sales at chains across Europe and the US fall as they struggle to attract customers.
This week in the UK, Middle England’s favourite chain John Lewis reported that profits dropped 99 per cent in the first half, with its department stores hit by falling sales. Highstreet stalwart Debenhams instructed advisers to draw up turnround plans that could involve store closures, sending its shares plummeting. A month earlier, rival House of Fraser collapsed into administration before being bought by Sports Direct.