Printemps is one of the main department stores found in Paris. It was founded in 1865 by Jules Jaluzot with the help of Jean-Alfred Duclos. According to the Printemps website, Jaluzot was a visionary entrepreneur that was struck with a genius idea to build a department store that offers everything. The name Printemps translates to the season of spring which is supposed to symbolize “renewal, freshness and the blossoming of dynamic ideas” (“Permanent Evolution”). They claim to be the first department store with electricity as well as the first to offer set prices. Furthermore, during the 1930s, the Art Nouveau style pavilion in the department store was at the heart of the World’s Fair. Because Printemps has suffered two fires, much of the building’s interior has changed. (“Permanent Evolution”). In 1975, the building’s façade became registered as a historic monument. To this day, Printemps tries to live up to its name by embodying the idea of modernity as a tradition. For example, in 2006, Printemps undertook restoration work on the inside of the building where “exceptional artisanal trades were united” (“Heritage Under Restoration”). These artisanal trades included stonecutters, mosaic artists, gilders, and glassmakers. The motivation behind this renovation was so Printemps could maintain its status as an essential part of Parisian culture (“Heritage Under Restoration”). The mission was successful as Printemps is still a relevant shopping location in Paris.
Printemps is similar to other Parisian department stores in that it sells high end, expensive items, and it has restaurants as well as a food court. I was excited upon entering the department store to see whether it was more similar to the Bon Marché or the Galeries Lafayette. After walking around for a little bit, I realized that Printemps feels very similar to the Bon Marché and very different from the Galeries Lafayette. Printemps has an air of exclusivity about it, much like the Bon Marché. However, Printemps has a more contemporary décor than the Bon Marché. Lastly, the dome ceiling inside the store is not easy to find whereas the dome inside the Galeries Lafayette is hard to miss. This exemplifies the different vibes of the two stores.
Upon first entering the store, I was immediately greeted by stands with the usual designer names: Chanel, Gucci, Chloe, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and so many more. Because both the Bon Marché and the Galeries Lafayette carry these brands, the vibe of the store as a whole was not instantly obvious. But after walking around for a little bit and visiting almost all the floors, it felt a lot like the high-end, exclusive Bon Marché for many reasons. First, the sales men and women were not busy, but they did not necessarily offer any help. They have no interest in approaching a consumer unless they look like they are going to make a purchase. I was not approached once by any of the sales people because they did not take me seriously as a potential customer. Furthermore, the store was not crowded what so ever, just like the Bon Marché. If it had not been for the rather loud music, it would have been practically silent in the store. This could not be more different than the Galeries Lafayette which constantly has hordes of people entering its doors. After I visited Printemps, I even went into the Galeries Lafayette to make sure it was not just an off time when not a lot of people were shopping in general, but there was still so many people in the Galeries Lafayette. Lastly, the layout of Printemps reminded me of the Bon Marché. They are both spread out which makes it feel more like a department store whereas the Galeries Lafayette has a tight layout which makes it feel like a boutique at times. Overall, Printemps is similar to the Bon Marché.
However, I noticed Printemps has more contemporary décor than the Bon Marché. This probably has to do in part with the renovations made in 2006 and their dedication to modernity. For example, there is a cool wall with panes of colored class right next one of the escalators. Also, some areas of the department store have sleek wood flooring. Overall, it felt and looked more modern than the Bon Marché.
Another interesting thing I noticed about Printemps is how hidden the dome ceiling is. I knew there was a beautiful dome inside due to pictures from the internet, but when I was actually in the department store, I had a really hard time finding it. I walked around most of the store looking for a way to see the dome ceiling, so finally I asked an employee for help. Turns out that in order to see the dome I needed to go all the way up to the top and then turn to the right. Once I found it, I was absolutely amazed by how beautiful it is. The reason the ceiling is not visible from the bottom floor is because there is actually a restaurant inside of the dome. The obscureness of the dome only added to the store’s feeling of exclusivity; it is almost as if they do not want the ceiling to turn into a tourist destination which would in turn attract crowds of people. I found this to be an interesting contrast to the dome ceiling inside the Galeries Lafayette which is immediately visible once inside the department store and does attract a significant number of people. Overall, the accessibility of the dome inside the Galeries Lafayette matches the store’s welcoming vibe whereas the hard to find dome inside Printemps represents the exclusivity of the store.
Overall, with the countless designer brands, Printemps feels posh and exclusive much like the Bon Marché. Also, neither the Bon Marché or Printemps draw in huge crowds which only adds to the air of exclusivity. However, Printemps looks more contemporary than the Bon Marché. Printemps felt very different from the Galeries Lafayette, especially regarding the domes. The accessibility of the domes matched the level of exclusivity of the respective department stores. In general, Printemps remains a premier shopping destination in Paris.