Galeries Lafayette vs. The Bon Marché

The Bon Marché and the Galeries Lafayette are both large department stores in Paris. People visit them to buy their designer goods or just do some shopping. While conducting our research in the winter, we thought that they would be very similar. But, we discovered that the two are actually quite different with one being exclusive and the other being a department store for the masses.

When we first visited both the Bon Marché and the Galeries Lafayette, we were struck by how different they felt. Considering they are both large department stores that carry high end brands, we expected them to have similar vibes as well as similar clientele. However, we quickly realized this is not the case. The Bon Marché feels more exclusive than the Galeries Lafayette and does not attract nearly as many people. We included ambient sound from both department stores to illustrate the difference.

The Galeries Lafayette feels more like a department store for the people which is evident in the large crowds it attracts. Anytime we have visited the Galeries Lafayette there has been an overwhelming amount of people. There are people around every corner, especially on the ground floor. Furthermore, a lot of people go to the Galeries Lafayette to see the beautiful dome ceiling as well as the awesome view from the rooftop. These two sights encourage even more people to flock to the Galeries Lafayette. Even though the crowdedness is not necessarily enjoyable, it makes it feel more like a department store that is open and accepting of everyone. When department stores were first created, part of the excitement was that consumers were now allowed to look at the product without having to make a purchase. The Galeries Lafayette still holds true to this concept with its inviting atmosphere. Furthermore, the Galeries Lafayette attracts an ethnically diverse crowd with people from all over the world doing their shopping. During my visits, we noticed countless different languages being spoken between the department store’s visitors. In general, the Galeries Lafayette is crowded yet accessible to everyone.

When we initially visited the Bon Marché after exploring the Galeries Lafayette, we noticed just how different the two departments stores actually are. In the Bon Marché, everything seems very pristine. The color scheme of the interior of the building is mainly white, and every item is perfectly placed. There were not nearly as many people in the Bon Marché, making the entire experience much more relaxed and quiet. The Bon Marché exclusively sells products that are high-end. In terms of department stores in America, the Bon Marché is more like a Barney’s or Bergdorf’s, while the Galeries Lafayette seems more like a Bloomingdale’s. Those who go to the Bon Marché do so to shop as the department store itself does not provide many other services or entertainment to customers. Every customer will most likely be well dressed as the exclusive atmosphere makes you feel as if a fashionable outfit is a must in order to enter. The employees will help you if you ask, but they will not bother you while you shop. Frankly, some of the employees may not take you seriously if you do not look or seem like you are capable of buying something. When we walked in, we noticed that, unlike the Galeries Lafayette, the Bon Marché is much more of a “look but don’t touch” type of atmosphere. Ultimately, the department store was extremely exclusive, and we felt somewhat out of place, as we knew that we were not going to walk into the Louis Vuitton section to walk out with a new bag, much to the department store’s disapproval.

After visiting both of the department stores, we wanted to analyze why the two feel so different. As discussed, the Galeries Lafayette attracts bigger crowds that are mostly made up of tourists. We feel as if this could be due to the type of experience that the department store provides to its consumers. The facade of the building is attractive, and the inside is mesmerizing. When we walked in, the domed roof immediately captured our attention. The way in which the sunlight shines through the glass is truly spectacular. A lot of people come to the Galeries Lafayette to see the dome and to take photos of it. Also, there is a rooftop terrace that attracts tourists because it offers an incredible view of the city. Another potential reason for the difference between the two department stores is location. The Bon Marché is located on the Left Bank, or Rive Gauche, which is known for its high end shopping and exclusive vibe. On the other hand, the Galeries Lafayette is located on the right bank next to other tourist attractions and more commercialized shopping, making it more accessible and inviting. Overall, the difference between the two stores might have to do with the tourist attractions in the Galeries Lafayette and the locations of the stores.

Another way in which the different vibes of the two department stores become apparent is through the difference in their food courts. In the Galeries Lafayette, there is a multitude of food options, ranging from cheap, quick options to full, sit-down meals. For example, in the department store, there is a McDonald’s, but you can also enjoy a meal at a caviar bar and restaurant. However, the Bon Marché would never put a McDonald’s in their store and has fewer dining options to choose from. While the Galeries Lafayette has a Starbucks for its customers to pick up a quick coffee, the Bon Marché has a cafe exclusive to the department store called Sunlee Howard. Furthermore, the Bon Marché only provides sit-down restaurants inside the main department store, most of which are fine dining. Ultimately, the difference between the accessible, inviting atmosphere of the Galeries Lafayette and the exclusive, posh atmosphere of the Bon Marché becomes even more evident through food options.

When we realized the difference between the two department stores, we wanted to be able to provide a way to demonstrate the difference in a more concrete way. So, we decided to include ambient sound of the department stores. Our goal was to show just how quiet the Bon Marché is compared to the Galeries Lafayette. The noise difference represents the different vibes of the department stores as a whole. The Galeries Lafayette has become a department store for the people; therefore, it is loud and noisy. On the other hand, the Bon Marché remains a place for the fashion elite, resulting in a nearly silent atmosphere. Overall, we found the difference between the two department stores interesting and wanted to explore it further.



Ambient Sound in the Galeries Lafayette
Creator: Griffin Link
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Ambient Sound in The Bon Marché
Creator: Griffin Link
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