Future Paris Apple Store

July 13, 2004

Apple has wanted to locate along the Champs Elysées for at least 18 months, but the location definitely presents some challenges for any American company who wants to make a big splash.

This grand avenue is not for the timid retailer--you're thrown in with local French retailers, along with international companies, all competing for attention from Parisiens and tourists. The stores include Gap, The Disney Store, Cartier, Virgin Megastore, Louis Vuitton, Mont Blanc, McDonald's and showrooms for Toyota, Peugeot and Mercedes car makers.

I also visited the Regent Street (London) retail store construction site...read my full report.

Unlike quiet Regent Street in London, the Champs Elysées in Paris has seen parades for heroes and on national holidays. It is, perhaps, the most beautiful boulevard in the world, in a city clearly laid out by someone with grand ideas. The views from so many angles are spectacular, and the size of everything dwarfs anything you've seen in photos or movies.

At the bottom of the Champs Elysées is the Tuileries gardens, beyond which is the famous Louvre art museum. At the top of the avenue is the Arc de Triomphe, a massive and deceptively tall structure around which vehicles circle at high speeds. In between, the street is 150-feet wide, and the stone sidewalks are a stately 70-feet wide, marked by sidewalk restaurants and giant, shady chestnut trees.

As you march up the Champs Elysées from Place de la Concorde, you watch the park-like surroundings disappear, and turn to stately buildings that house some discretely-designed stores and hotels. But within a block, the buildings turn distinctly retail, including familiar European and American names.

Now, it is into this mix of small local retailers and big-time companies that Apple is desperate to install what would be its fourth international retail store. The question, of course, is exactly where?

My visit to the Champs Elysées revealed it will certainly be a challenge to find the absolutely perfect spot, as Apple always wants to do. There are limitations not only on available spaces, but also on the width and height of the buildings along the street.

First, I found only one empty space on the entire length of the Champs Elysées, along with two spaces undergoing complete reconstruction. The stores appear to be a mix of older, local stores that would have to be convinced to move, or newer up-scale stores that have already invested heavily to locate along the street.

Paris has been a "must have" location almost from the start of Apple's retail plans. But it's all about the location. Finding it and signing it are the critical first step, but patience is paramount. Apple has consistently demonstrated its willingness to wait, and that's just what is happening now with Paris.

Ironically, that single empty space is the former Paris Tourism Office at #127, close to the Arc de Triomphe and just down from the Publicis Cinemas. It's a ground-floor, 66-foot wide space, with an unknown square-footage. The upper floors house the Lancel handbag company. It would qualify for location and width, but apparently not for height.

[In Sept. 2004 I learned that Air France will vacate their office at #119 with, just west of the tourism office. The space is over 60 feet wide, but like other spaces along the street, it appears limited to a single story.]

Second, the design and construction of the buildings could limit the width, size and height of a store that Apple could install in an existing building. The buildings, dating from the 1800s, are up to six stores high, but with non-standard floor heights--the ground floor is usually slightly taller (15'), while the second floor is somewhat shorter (10'). The spaces are generally rather narrow, averaging around 18 feet wide along most of the avenue, with few spaces as large as 45-feet, and only a handful over 60-feet wide.

No doubt Apple wants to install a multi-story retail store in Paris. But with the non-standard ground and second-floor spaces of the buildings, it might be difficult. The store would end up with a shorter second-floor retail space with less head room, and fewer options for architectural features. A complete renovation of the first two floors would give them two floors of equal height, which is certainly a possibility.

Several stores, including The Disney Store have installed basement retail spaces, and that's certainly an option for Apple to increase the size of its future store.

But even a two-story retail store doesn't provide enough space, especially given the narrow width of the stores. That means Apple would have to renovate an entire building, or construct an entirely new building. It's been done before...

In 1999 Gap installed a brand-new, 28,000 square-foot, 4-story store in the first lower block of the Champs Elysées (#40) that is the model of what Apple's store might eventually look like. In fact, some of the features appear to have been the model for Apple's first international store in Tokyo.

The original building was built around 1900, and Gap Inc. retained the original stone façade on the upper floors, while incorporating more modern, American-branded features on the lower level. The store front is 40-feet wide. The architect lowered the basement, constructed an interior concrete core, and installed modern interior elements, including a double-stairway, elevators, a wall of randomly-placed video screens, and a reading area.

The stairway is particularly interesting, as it uses dark granite treads, and glass risers, giving it some of the same feeling of Apple's all-glass stairways at its flagship stores. The handrails are mounted on glass panels, further enhancing the Apple-like effect.

And those elevators--they look very similar to the constantly-moving shuttles at Apple Ginza flagship store.

The Virgin Megastore up the street took a unique approach--the store entrance is at the center of the building, with retailers on either side that have shallow stores (front to back). Virgin occupies the interior part of the building, as well as the upper floors.

As you can imagine, demolishing an existing building and re-building anew, or completely renovating an existing store would be very expensive for Apple. But then, the company has showed it's willing to spend money for the right city, the right space and the right look--just look at its other flagships, which $5 million and up to build or renovate.


Just across from the huge Georges Pompidou Center on Rue du Renard is Apple Center IC, a ground-floor corner space that typifies the European Apple reseller--before they convert to the official design. The store has about 1,500 square feet of retail space laid out in seemingly typical fashion, with shelves of merchandise and a counter of Macintosh gear.

However, in this case the store operates a little differently. When you come into the store, there is a concierge desk, and you're directed to one of three counters staffed by sales personnel who will help you find or purchase what you need. However, if you just want to browse, you can do that, too.

The staff told me the store arrangement was only temporary, and they would soon be converting to the standard Apple design of wall graphics, lighting, wooden tables and other features.

Here's a run-down on Apple product prices, based on Euros:

Product
Euro €
Dollars
Apple U.S. List
G5 dual 1.8 GHz
2,223
$2,734
 $1,999
G5 dual 2.0 GHz
2,726
$3,353
$2,499
G5 dual 2.5 GHz
3,299
$4,058
$2,999
iPod 15 Gb
346
$425
$299
iPod 20 Gb
440
$541
$399
iPod 40 Gb
547
$672
$499
Powerbook 15", 1.33 GHz combo
2,103
$2,587
$1,999
Powerbook 15", 1.33 GHz Superdrive
2,695
$3,315
$2,499
Powerbook 17", 1.5 GHz Superdrive
2,988
$3,675
$2,799
Powerbook 12", 1.33 GHz combo
1,756
$2,160
$1,599
Powerbook 12', 1.33 GHz Superdrive
1,990
$2,447
$1,799
iMac 15", 1.5 GHz
1,392
$1,712
  
iMac 17", 1.25 GHz
1,994
$2,453
 $1,799
iMac 20", 1.25 GHz
2,433
$2,992
$2,199
Cinema display, 17" (old)
816
$1,003
 $699
Cinema display, 20" (old)
2,402
$2,954
$1,299
Cinema display, 23" (old)
2,725
$3,351
$1,999
iSight camera
167.44
$207
$149
Keynote
114.81
$141
$99
OS X
148
$182
$129
Final Cut Pro Express
297.80
$366
$299
.Mac account
88.50
$109
$99.95

based on $1.23 per euro, as of 7-15-2004

As you can see, just as in London, Apple products are seemingly more expensive for French customers. But also like the London prices, currency exchange rates can make specific comparisons difficult. In any event, for French customers, Apple products are premium-priced. See photos of the store below.

Also check my random notes on the Paris trip, and the French version of the " ," which allows you to see a photo of addresses along the Champs Elysées--just enter "84 avenue des Champs Elysees" as the address, click to display the photo, and then navigate up and down the street with the arrows that accompany the photo.

aa_streetlongview

the wide Champs Elysées

ab_sidewalkcafe

the sidewalk is shared by cafés and vendors

ac_typicalblock

view of typical block

ad_typicalspace

the retail spaces are narrow

ae_sidewalk

view along the sidewalk

af_sidewalkdetail

detail of the stone sidewalk

ba_gucci

Gucci store at the start of the
retail district

bb_jarmon

example of a wider 27' space

bc_lacoste

Lacoste space is about 60' wide

bd_optical

another wide space

be_shortsecond

2nd floor is not quite full height

bf_tourismlong

vacant Paris Tourism space #127 that
would be a perfect Apple store location

bg_toyota

one of several auto showrooms

bh_virgin

the corner building where Virgin
Megastore is located

bi_vuitton

Louis Vuitton store under construction,
with creative barricades

bj_disney

corner Disney store

bk_disneybasement

basement stairway at Disney Store

ca_gaplong

Gap store

cb_gapmedium

Gap store

cc_gapdownstairs

Gap stairs to basement

cd_gapstairs

detail of Gap's double stairway

ce_gapreading1

reading area at Gap store

cf_gap2ndfloor

2nd floor stairway at Gap

cg_gapelevators

double elevators at Gap store

ch_gapelevator2

sales floor and elevators at Gap store

da_centreext

Apple Center IC

db_centreview2

main display area at Apple Center

dc_centreshelves2

product display at Apple Center

dd_centreview1

main product display area at
Apple Center

de_centreshelves

software display at Apple Center

df_centreview3

another view of Apple Center IC