Balmain to open new Paris store, launches revamped website with YNAP
French fashion label Balmain will open a store at 374 rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, taking over the 750 m2 premises formerly occupied by Spanish giant Inditex’s leading brand, Zara. This new opening in such a prestigious location is a statement of Balmain’s expansion ambitions. Also, the change in tenant is indicative both of Balmain’s strategy and of the transformation of rue Saint-Honoré into a commercial street focusing exclusively on luxury. Colette’s opening had marked the start of rue Saint-Honoré’s shift towards becoming a hub for upmarket and luxury brands, and the concept store’s departure, its premises taken over by Saint Laurent, paved the way for an exclusive focus on luxury.
“Rue Saint-Honoré’s commercial transformation, which began five-six years ago, is not complete yet, despite the recent openings by Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chanel’s at the end of the year,” said Antoine Salmon, in charge of retail leasing at real estate specialist Knight Frank. For him, Zara’s departure is consistent with a specific trend. “Some retailers are streamlining, notably fast-fashion players like Zara and H&M which, since the 2000s, have expanded significantly, and sometimes opportunistically. Zara’s opening of a store of only 250 m², as is the case in avenue Victor Hugo in Paris, or of 800 m² as in rue Saint-Honoré, was a departure from their usual 1,500-2,000 m² store size. Nowadays, the global strategy of some major retailers is ‘we shall do less but better’, meaning they tend to open fewer stores, but bigger ones, as H&M did in rue Lafayette and Zara in place de l’Opéra, both in Paris.”
Akillis, Isabel Marant, Moschino, Herno, Hervé Chapelier, Marni and Serge Lutens are among the brands to have recently opened on rue Saint-Honoré. And Balmain beat other prestigious names to number 374. Of the total number of luxury retail openings last year in Paris, no less than 24% were in rue Saint-Honoré, compared to an average of 22% in the previous five years. Something which inevitably led to a gradual increase in rents, which have now reached €12,000 per m² per year, close to the €15,000 of uber glamorous rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré and avenue Montaigne.
The latter hosts Balmain’s French flagship, one of the label’s three current addresses in Paris, the other two being the shop-in-shops at Printemps Haussmann and at 55 Croisette on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. The rue Saint-Honoré store will be the fourth strategic site in the Parisian commercial arena - where the number of players keeps on growing - for Balmain, a label with a revenue of €150 million, owned since 2016 by Mayhoola, the Qatari royal family’s investment fund.
Clearly, Balmain’s arrival comes in the wake of the increasingly upmarket positioning of this section of rue Saint-Honoré, which led to more affordable brands questioning their presence there. “For a decade, Zara was happy with the relatively mixed commercial environment in rue Saint-Honoré,” said Antoine Salmon, adding that “today, with the street’s commercial transformation, and this section of the street’s market positioning shifting decidedly towards luxury, Zara surely thought it no longer fitted. The same trend sometimes means a handover within the same group, such as the Emporio Armani store at 368 rue Saint-Honoré which is becoming a Giorgio Armani store. In addition, other openings of various magnitude are on the cards, such as Graff watches, which is setting up shop on the corner of the Hotel Costes building.”
Brick-and-mortar and digital retail
For Balmain, the retail expansion planned for the second part of 2018 is being deployed in parallel with an increasingly powerful digital strategy, both relying on the Yoox Net-A-Porter (YNAP) group to add new impetus to Balmain’s web presence. The label is keen to reap the rewards of its latest collaboration with Beyoncé, designed by the team led by designer Olivier Rousteing, to kickstart its new digital marketing efforts, notably targeting Millennials via the mobile version of the website for the ‘Balmain Army’.
YNAP’s online flagship stores division is launching the latest version of the Balmain website in seven languages, as opposed to the current two, with purchases possible in eight different currencies. In terms of design and navigation, the site has been developed in collaboration with the Mazarine agency.
“Until now, Balmain.com has been run internally,” said Massimo Piombini, CEO of Balmain since 2017, “something which restricted our opportunities in terms of technology and design. Working with YNAP, the world leader in luxury e-tail, and with the talented webmasters at Mazarine, enables us to communicate with our customers in a much more exciting fashion, and to deliver the products designed by Olivier Rousteing in more than 100 markets.”
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