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Brief Published: 14 Jan 2013

Reinventing French Shopping Malls


French retailers are breathing new life into the shopping centre format with a wave of new mega-malls characterised by super service, localised design strategy and luxurious styling.

So Ouest, a 570,500-sq-ft mall on the western outskirts of Paris, is leading the pack. Opened in October 2012, it boasts 102 stores, 10 restaurants and a 165,000-sq-ft hypermarket. An eight-screen multiplex cinema will be added by 2014.

While malls are traditionally associated with cookie-cutter design, So Ouest is considerably more boutique in its outlook. It’s conceived to resemble a Parisian apartment and features glass-walled atriums that allow natural light to flood the space. “We selected rich materials to create made-to-measure fittings, materials that people are not used to seeing in a setting with that amount of traffic – leather, marble, polished stone and wood panelling,” said So Ouest’s manager, Nelly Païs.

Designed to appeal to all the senses, scent diffusers, automatic pianos playing classical music and a moving digital gallery of portraits flanking the escalators create a more engaging, luxurious ambience.

Super service comes in the form of a free bus shuttle to Paris, a tech-fuelled childcare space, valet parking and complementary wi-fi, while a So Ouest mobile application helps consumers navigate the space.

The mall attracted one million visitors in its second month.

British property developer Hammerson’s new retail project, Les Terrasses du Port, is following a similar track. Scheduled to open in Marseille in the first half of 2014, retailers setting up shop in the 657,000-sq-ft seafront mall will be required to devise concepts tailored to the Marseille location.

“We must offer consumers a link to their local roots and identity in terms of how the space is conceived,” explained Vincent Ravat, director of operations at Hammerson France. There will be a distinct emphasis on local produce in the food halls, which shoppers can tuck into on a panoramic dining terrace.

For more on mall retailing, in particular how many are moving from pure retail into full lifestyle destinations, see Westfield Stratford City, UK and Great Mall of China. For more on mall retailing with a local-centric philosophy, see Boxpark: London’s Pop-Up Mall and California’s Anti-Malls. And look out for Brazilian Mall Retailing, being published soon.

Terrasses du Port

So Ouest