Notes From Abroad | Tracking Global Retail
The New BHV: Iconic Paris Department store Targets the ‘Bobos’
Parisians are loyal to a fault when it comes to their department stores. The most famous were founded in the 1850’s, Paris’ belle époque, including La Samaritaine, Les Galeries Lafayette, Le Printemps, and Le Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville. Each has undergone extensive renovation (La Samaritaine is still not finished) and this week, the Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville — or le BHV as it is commonly known – unveiled its new look and new positioning.
Located on the edge of the trendy Marais district on the rue de Rivoli, the BHV had become a bit frumpy compared with the fashionable Marais and its increasingly upscale (and gay) shops and cafes. Nevertheless the BHV remains a favorite destination for the bricoleur – those who enjoy Do-It-Yourself home improvement.
The changing neighborhood became a focus for the brand strategy. The Marais has long been the home of the Bobos – the “bohemian bourgeois.”
The Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, or BHV, has been a Paris institution since the 1850’s.
“The Bobos is a global phenomenon, you have them in the US, in Asia, and all over Europe,” says Anne-Marie Gaultier, Chief Marketing Officer for BHV and Galeries Lafayette. “We did a whole study to understand the different tribes of the bobos, there are the traditional or ‘trady” bobos, the young and fashionable children of bobos, the worldly bobos and the arty bobos. These are people who have a beautiful old Haussmann apartment but they paint it hot pink and add their bicycle to the décor.”
Groupe Galeries Lafayette, which owns BHV, tapped French branding agency Royalties (Eurogroup/Publicis) to refocus the image of the brand from a “problem-solution” store to a lifestyle anchor that reflects this newly identified target customer. “They had the idea to rebrand it and keep the ‘BHV’ but anchor it with ‘Marais’ so that you charge it with all the values of the Marais.”
At top is the store’s old logo, reflecting its more utilitarian focus as a “problem-solution” destination. Below, the new logo, which now includes a slash-mark and a lock-up with “Marais,” the fashionable district where the store is located.
The programming of the store includes over 100 cosmetic brands, a shoe department, men’s and women’s fashion, an art exhibition space, and two restaurants, La Cantine du Bazar and Paris Tokyo, a sushi and sake bar. The fifth floor includes l’Observatoire, a dedicated exhibition space with a view towards the Hôtel de Ville and beyond, the Louvre.
“We decided to really make the inside of the store like a continuation of the streets in the Marais, so the aisles are a bit wider and you have the feeling of wandering through individual shops,” says Gaultier.
At top: the first floor includes the Nail Kitchen, with rustic wood slab counter and copper sink. The wall is white tile. Below: an edited collection of exclusive fragrances is housed in a section called Les Parfums d’Exception.
Of course, in a city like Paris, change cannot come too drastically, and certainly not with such an iconic store. “We were concerned that people would think we were becoming too high-end, or that we would get rid of the DIY department in the basement. Of course we couldn’t – that department will always be the soul of our brand.”
Nevertheless, some things simply had to change, namely the logo, which had come to look utilitarian, like a power company. The brand hired typography wunderkind Jean-Fran Çois Porchez, who most notably refreshed the logo for Le Monde and even created a typeface for Beyoncé.
“We started working on all the logo shapes and what we liked with this one is that it is very stark and clean, and we like the slash which connotes an edginess,” says Gaultier.
At top: a fanciful display of china covers a wall in the kitchen and housewares department. Below: a view of the department with custom fixtures.
The in-store experience is certainly more crisp and fashion-forward, while still maintaining its feeling of a “bazaar” or souk. Still some things are impossible to change, no matter how hard one may try: cosmetics, like nearly all cosmetics department around the world, is still a battleground of branded signage and promotions.
Upstairs in the kitchen and china department, whimsical displays of plates seemingly flying into the air or a vintage refrigerator used for storage make a nod towards BHV’s creative roots.
“The focus is on learning and a place where people can come to get inspired and experiment, ”says Gaultier. “In 2014 we will have ‘La Grande Cuisine’ with cooking classes. We also have created a group called the Golden Hooks, retired ladies who teach you how to knit.”
The store’s dedicated fifth floor gallery space, called l’Observatoire, with a recent exhibition by Philippe Blondez and Jenni Sparks, with a playful depiction of the Marais.
The store’s new website is loaded with content and editorial, reflecting the brand’s emphasis on social media and lifestyle, and makes ample use of its new trademark orange slash.
Our bags will be bright orange, just like the slash in our logo,” says Gaulter. “And just so you know, the slash is precisely 69 degrees, we thought that was very funny.”
The BHV/Marais is located at 52, rue de Rivoli. Tel. 0977 401 400. www.bhv.fr.