We’re stood circled around a sofa in Milibootik, as retailers from across Europe quiz the high tech furniture boutique’s staff about their pièce de résistance: le concept et le canapé. Not only can the sofa charge your iPad, but it can play music through an iPhone dock in the sofa arm, and even control the television. What else can it do? “Everything is possible” according to Milibootik, and after two days sampling the best of Paris’ retail scene for Paris Retail Week, it would be hard to disagree.
In a city with luxury and high-fashion stakes admired the world over, French retailing has taken its time coming around to omni-channel. Especially when compared to British consumers. Research from Criteo released in August this year found mobile devices are finally beginning to play a part in the shopping journey across the Channel. M-commerce now represents more than 20 per cent of all e-commerce transactions in the first few months of 2015.
The figures still needing a long way to go to match British rates, where IMRG and Capgemini’s Quarterly Benchmark found mobile sales now account for 40 per cent of all online retail sales. Even the worldwide average from Criteo of 24 per cent surpasses- but it feels like France is fighting the long race. Multi-channel shopping is now increasingly common here. Criteo found 40 per cent of digital purchases by residents in France involved at least two platforms or devices, but using multiple devices doesn’t mean consumers will be abandoning their familiar retailers any time soon, and it’s something Parisian retailers seem to be entirely aware of in how they are building their new stores.
A trip around Leroy Merlin’s gigantic 3.0 city store in the 12th arrondissement as part of Paris Retail Week in September made it clear just how seriously Paris is now taking the offer of multichannel purchases. When asked why the new shop, which opened earlier this summer, is called ‘3.0’, head of store Marie-Dominique Marguery explained that it looks to combine the best of bricks and mortar and the online experience, creating a third way. What does this mean in reality? All products are given electronic price tags that can alter daily to reflect new offers. Customers are encouraged to try every door handle the store supplies on a huge display wall, as well as countless information points in each section we walk past, and experience virtual reality kitchens with an Oculus Rift.
Further along the tour, we travel to Parrot, a store designed by Philippe Starck, the French taste-maker known for his simple but innovative structures. This shop is no different. At first seeming to take a cue from Apple stores the world over, it soon becomes clear Starck has pushed things a step further. A gigantic helipad forms the centre piece of the store, displaying the drones and mini-drones Parrot now specialises in. Deceptively simple, the small Parrot store becomes a stage on which to test its stock, in other words, fulfilling everything a customer cannot get from the product online.
Where other retailers have slipped into gimmick territory in attempting to combine both retail theatre and the ease of online shopping in the bricks and mortar stores, it feels like Paris has taken its time in adopting new trends. The ones utilised are just as challenging and exciting as the ones you’ll find in London and New York. But there’s also a reasoning behind their uptake. In Leroy Merlin, it wasn’t just about screens and AR tools. Testing points and information desks are given as much space as the high-tech gadgets. While London may have been to embrace tech developments, Paris has a knack of picking trends that are now beginning to mature, instead of jumping on every bandwagon.