With Eataly, Galeries Lafayette enters the experiential era
This week’s launch of Eataly in the hip Paris neighbourhood of the Marais by Galeries Lafayette marks an important new chapter for the high-end French retail group – the entrance into the experiential era.
Tony guests sauntered into the 4,000 square-meter space, the first outpost of Eataly in France, and a notably edited version of the highly Italian successful market and cooking concept. The big change: Eataly in Paris is restaurant driven – seven all told, ranging from pizzeria and pasta bar to a classic high-end modernist space in the basement, beside Osteria del Vino, which must have the best selection of Italian wine – over 1,200 labels - anywhere in France. Throughout are dotted elegant marble bars for nine specialist counters offering salumi, prosciutto, cheese, pasta, ice creams and pastries from the peninsula – with total seats for 400 clients.
Eataly is also linked through to BHV, another massive store in the retail chain specializing in quality home appliances, high-end DIY, kitchenware and, increasingly fashion.
Galeries Lafayette’s chairman Philippe Houzé also sees the novel Eataly Marais mix as the perfect vehicle to drive traffic to BHV. The 2016 decision of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo to close the nearby voie Georges-Pompidou along the Seine snarled traffic around BHV, cutting business by some 20%. Before it closed, 43,000 vehicles passed daily along that stretch.
“We needed something to attract Parisians from the west of the city back here to the centre. And this novel experience from our Italian friends should be a great help,” explained Houzé, surrounded by friends enjoying plates of delicious risotto con zafferano.
He is predicting some 8,500 customers per day, or around one million a year, as Eataly Marais will be open seven days a week. The food emporium marks the latest development by Galeries Lafayette, which opened a major flagship on the Champs Elysees last month.
“Our new addition on the Champs Elysees is really a concept store for us. I don’t define Galeries Lafayette as a luxury store, even if we retail lots of luxurious fashion and accessories. We are a store dedicated to premier products,” smiled Houzé, after saluting guests inside the Piazza, a covered interior courtyard, with performances by MC and French TV host Frederic Beigbeder and some soaring opera by the trio Il Volo.
“We wanted to offer Parisians and visitors something truly experiential. I know we have great cuisine in France, but there is something about Italian cooking that just makes people very happy,” smiled Houzé, who in an elegant gesture to Italian fashion was dressed in Brunello Cucinelli, as were his two sons, Nicolas and Guillaume, respectively CEO and president of Lafayette Anticipations, the group’s critical acclaimed, and adjoining, art space.
Founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti, Eataly now has 35 locations worldwide, since its first opening inside an old vermouth factory in Torino.
“I first discovered Eataly at the Flatiron in New York and met Oscar in 2003. It took us a couple of years to create this space, but judging by first reactions it’s going to be worth it,” added Houzé.
Clients can also shop for the perfect pasta pot, ideal knife for cutting parmesan and attend courses on regional Italian cooking, in multiple languages – especially as 60% of the staff are Italian. There’s also an airy store with a dozen different pasta brands and truly authentic Italian suppliers – like Afeltra from Gragnano, the birthplace of dry pasta, or Cosi Com’è sauce from tomatoes from a small 24-farm cooperative in Campania.
“Eataly Paris is a declaration of love and fraternity between Italy and France,” insisted Farinetti in a short speech, before unveiling a mock score card of France v Italy in a “Oenogastronomy” World Cup final. It included everything from antipasta and shellfish to dessert and wine, with each team scoring freely, and the final result was 7-7.
“Fraternity only really reigns among equals,” concluded the well-fed Piedmontese businessman.
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