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New Stores:


Initial Shops

  1. Haussmanisation removed barriers preventing intra-city travel that had previously confined Parisians to their immediate quarters
  2. Revolution in retailing traced back to new kind of stores in 1830s and 40s - dry goods firms known as ‘Magasins de nouveautés’
  3. after the growth of these firms, they led to the development of department stores - period of transition was only a few decades

Before the revolution

  •  most retailing in France was governed by a guild system concerned with maintaining established levels of craftsmanship
  • guilds regulated and limited entry into the various trades - insisted that each seller be confined to a single speciality and a single shop

Development in shopping culture

  • Ville de Paris (largest Magasins de nouveautés in 1840s, with around 150 employees) was selling goods at low prices for high turnover
  • using fixed and marked prices, as well as permitting free entry and being willing to reimburse or exchange items that weren’t ‘entirely satisfactory’
  •  advertising was also now welcomed as a valuable sales toll


New Stores:


  • in 1840s Ville de Paris had been an anomaly, by 1860s average large stores had sales volumes of 10-12 million francs a year, by the end of the decade there were stores with sales volumes 2x as large and employees numbering over 500 > advertising was also now common and extensive
  • Industrialisation could be seen to be relatively slow compared to other countries, but some of its industries were growing at a steady rate
  •  e.g. textiles industry in 1860s saw France become the largest producer of cotton goods on the continent
  • North and Northeastern firms possessed over 3,500,000 spindles combined
  •  mass production required a retail system more efficient and expansive than small shopkeepers could provide 
  • Introduction of ready to wear clothing developed at a similar rate to Magasins de nouveautés and became a significant part of the clothing, shoe and lingerie trade


Re-Organisation and Development of Paris

  • 1855 single service, Compagnie Générale des Omnibus, formed
  • 5yrs later it was transporting 70,000,000 people annually (improved transport means more people visiting shops, retailers don’t have to rely on people in the area or people passing by chance)
  • railroads also allowed goods to be transported directly to stores
  • development of the mail-order trade


America and England


  • A.T. Stewart’s ‘Marble Palace’, New York, 1846: possibly one of the first multi-storey buildings designed to handle a large volume of trade 

  • in 1862 Stewart built another building known as a ‘Cast Iron Palace’ and by mid-decade he had an annual sales volume of around 50,000,000 dollars 

  • store sales began to decline in 1872 after Stewart’s death and by 1892 A.T. Stewart’s passed over to John Wanamaker of Philadelphia

  • Other innovative stores in the 1850s and 60s included Lord and Taylor; and Macy’s





Bon Marche:

Initial Store

  • Boucicaut joined Paul Videau as co-proprietor of Bon Marche, which had 12 employees at the time > in 1863 Boucicaut bought out Videau and became sole owner of the store

  • By 1869 he laid the first cornerstone for France’s 1st department store > in 1877 when he died he was the proprietor of possibly the largest retail enterprise in the world

  • Bon Marche expanded haphazardly throughout the middle decades of C18 > either by adding to existing structures or by acquiring adjoining ones  

  •  it wasn’t until 1866 when the Hospice des Petits-Ménages was torn down that Boucicaut was able to gain control of the whole block and start considering wholesale reconstruction of Bon Marche


Reconstruction (Completed 1887)

  • overseen by architect L.A. Boileau and engineer Gustave Eiffel >> came up with framework of thin iron columns and roofing of glass skylights

  • iron would provide open, spacious bays where large quantities of goods could be displayed and vast crowds could move through with ease 

  • skylights permitted max influx of natural light

  • 2nd level basement built to house heavy machinery for heating (and later lighting) 

  • sheer size of Bon Marche shows how it had surpassed the magasins e.g. employees numbering 1,788 - only Louvre competing on similar terms at this time

  • growth by beginning of C20 resulted in enlargement of departments and offices

  • in 1912 a major extension opened across the intersection and an underground passage was used to join it with the original building


Bon Marche:

Grand Magasin

  • department stores grew by stressing stock turn and low prices, increasing volume sales; and also by diversifying into new lines

  • New Lines: In France, diversification nearly always occurred through the introduction of new lines to an already existing department >>> this may be part of the reason why France was behind its American counterparts - who were more likely to create new departments from scratch > e.g. Macy’s of 1870 was significantly more diversified than its French counterparts

  • By C20 Bon marche had expanded from clothes, shoes etc. to cosmetic wares, kitchen and garden items, tea, toilet paper and paint etc.


Bon Marche:

Selling Consumption

  • Bon Marche became something of a fantasy world, where shopping became exciting > people now going to the department stores just to visit, buying in the process, rather than coming specifically to buy a particular item

  • New Bon Marche building designed to lure people into the building >> stately facade of stone topped with cupolas

  • interior had monumental expanses of iron column-work and glass which created a sense of openness and brought in light 

  • three grand staircases conveyed to the public that they were climbing up to each floor as if they were going to the loges at the Opera - second floor had a reading room and a great hall full of paintings

  • part opera, part museum, part theatre (creating a grand spectacle for those inside) > merchandise formed decorative motifs e.g. silks cascaded from the walls of the silk gallery

  • Presenting goods to international countries too e.g. 1900 paris world fair Bon Marche had its own pavilion showcasing its goods 

  • in 1890s began to publish its own pamphlets in foreign languages as well as french