Galeries Lafayette – the upscale French department store – has announced that it will open its first location in China by the end of 2014.
The Beijing store will be operated as a 50-50 joint venture between the French company and the Hong Kong-based fashion retailer I.T.
Galeries Lafayette is also expected to unveil additional stores in other major Chinese cities including Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenzhen.
The department store, which boasts more than 60 locations in France, Germany and Dubai, is hoping to score a profitable slice of the booming Chinese market.
Mainland China is forecast to become the world’s top buyer of luxury goods by 2015, according to consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Galeries Lafayette is a well-known name among affluent shoppers in China, who have traveled abroad and shopped in its ten-story glittering Paris flagship.
“The store is always full of Chinese tourists, and shop assistants are mostly Chinese,” Bai Ling, a 26-year-old resident in Shenzhen who previously lived in Paris, told the Chinese daily newspaper Global Times.
But Yan Jun, president of the Beijing-based Ecole Fashion and Luxury Consulting, says that Galeries Lafayette isn’t guaranteed to succeed despite its brand recognition in China.
“Lafayette failed in Asian markets such as Japan and South Korea in the 1990s, and I.T. has no experience running department stores,” he said.
Galeries Layette’s direct competitor — the PPR-owned French department store Printemps – already boasts a Chinese location.
Its Shanghai store on the bustling Huaihai Zhong Lu is furnished in high Art Nouveau style and is modeled after its 19th-century flagship store in Paris.
Printemps Shanghai offers local Chinese shoppers French designer labels like Givenchy and Christian Lacroix, along with in-store Parisian-style cafes.