On 30 November, it will be two years since Galeries Lafayette opened its doors in the Royal-Hamilius centre. After a start marked by the tram’s construction site, the department store had to face the covid-19 health crisis and, since last June, Laurent Dufraisse has been at the helm. A total of 200 employees work on the 6,500m2 premises rented by Galeries Lafayette, with 110 working for the Parisian store and 90 others working for various brands.
How is the Luxembourg shop doing today? Rumours of a departure last year were swept aside but there was still a renegotiation of the lease.
Laurent Dufraisse - Very well and that's really good news. We are lucky to be in a very dynamic environment and to be in line with the objectives we have set for ourselves, it is exceptional.
You have moved from the management of Galeries Lafayette in Clermont-Ferrand to a foreign capital. What is different about running a shop like this?
Our international expansion requires a little more autonomy because we are a segment that is developing very strongly. We are a well-known player among French department stores and we have been active for over 127 years. The international expansion is an ambition that has always existed but which has been achieved in recent years. This requires the know-how of Galeries Lafayette but also the capacity to go towards the local market. This is a two-fold challenge regarding the local clientele and city’s European characteristics.
In the press release announcing your appointment, we read that your mission is to "strengthen the attractiveness and influence of the Luxembourg shop". How do you intend to achieve this?
It's about making customers come and return via our services, via a distinguishable experience. It is about having the possibility to make this place lively and for our customers to be able to make it their own. This is achieved by enhancing the shop via the "personal shopping" offer, a wellness corner and by organising events. We hope that the health situation will soon allow us to be a vibrant location again and to be able to make this shop lively.
Today, the Royal-Hamilius centre lacks a key element: a restaurant. What can be said about this?
We’re also looking forward to welcoming a new partner on the 6th floor and hope to introduce all customers to the rooftop and the associated restaurant and bar offer.
Would you like to see this food and beverage offer be introduced into your shop?
In the form of a partnership, but its form is to be defined.
Luxembourg is a strategic international objective for the next 10 years for practically all brands.
You distribute 300 brands but the shop is not expandable: how do you make your selection?
This is done in close collaboration with the purchasing departments of our company and those of the brands. Today, what is extremely reassuring is that Luxembourg is a strategic international objective for the next 10 years for practically all brands. We are therefore fortunate to be asked to set up shop there. And then we have our role in detecting talent and today we want to be local. We are going to start talking to Luxembourg brands because my mission is to develop local products that correspond to the expectations of Luxembourgers.
So, in time, there could be Luxembourg designer brands on the shelves at Galeries Lafayette?
Absolutely. There are already some, but in a pop-up format, such as the Garçon grand-ducal T-shirts (by Jacques Schneider, editor's note). But the aim is to offer something well supplied that looks good and that shows the presence of know-how. This should happen by the end of 2021 or the first half of 2022.
The shop has 150m2 operated by Smets. How is this collaboration going?
We are fortunate to be accompanied by this local partner, and we value this partnership. Our mission is to work together, and I hope to grow together.
What are the strengths of this shop?
The location and architecture of the building.
What are its weaknesses?
I think that we can still progress regarding the services offered to our customers, both in terms of personalising these services and the services expected by our customers. We have a very large area for development in the future. Luxembourg is an international flagship location. The level of the services must therefore correspond to that.
What kind of services?
For example, concierge services. These are simple and practical things for our customers, such as the option to make purchases and to choose the time and place of their delivery. It can also be having access to the VIP lounge with a personalised shopping experience, or the option to have collections presented to you individually. We are also offering responsible fashion for three years now, which we are very proud of.
Is the geographical proximity of the Metz shop a disadvantage?
Not at all. The proof is that we have invested and reinvested in the Metz shop. We are continuing to renovate it. We do have an international ambition for Luxembourg and an ambition for the Greater Metz catchment area. I would say that one is complementary to the other: you have a shop in Metz which is historic, and a shop in Luxembourg established locally with its own distinctive features. These are two very different DNAs.
At the end of August, the Galeries Lafayette group announced the franchising of 11 additional shops in France. What about Luxembourg?
It is operated as a stand-alone store. This shop is not and will not be affected by the affiliation project. The Luxembourg shop is a priority strategy for the Galeries Lafayette group and the priority strategy is international development.
What are the group's ambitions in Luxembourg?
Our first ambition is to complete our project in the city centre and to propose the experience of a department store in Luxembourg with a premium and luxury positioning. The second is that we have a strong focus on male clients with two full floors and an extremely strong selection that allows us to dress men for every occasion in life.
What is the significance of Luxembourg in the international branch of Galeries Lafayette?
It is an important part, we are in the second year of operation and we are meeting our objectives. You can't compare Luxembourg with shops like Doha or Shanghai, which is 25,000m2 for example.
Luxembourg is one of the shops where we have very big ambitions.
The department store in Luxembourg is one of the smallest in the world?
Yes, Luxembourg is one of the smallest but it is one of the shops where we have very big ambitions because we have our own shop.
What can you say about the average basket?
We have a higher average basket in Luxembourg than in the French network but it is in line with other points of sale in the international network.
What are your future plans?
In concrete terms, to bring the shop up to its turnover ambition. In the current context, it is a challenge in itself because the world of department stores is challenged by the sanitary measures and by international flows because we suffer just like the tourism sector in the city. In one sentence: to ensure the shop’s success in the very long term, that is my objective. And then, we have to make this shop profitable too (smiles).