Christophe Pinquet lives in a top-floor apartment on the Champs-Élysées. Among the benefits of living on the busiest boulevard in Paris are breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe he enjoys from his terrace.
In a story in last week’s New York Times about the City of Lights’ efforts to stem the ‘banalization’ of the Champs-Élysées, Messr. Pinquet is quoted as saying, “The battle shouldn’t be to keep H&M out. It should be to make sure it’s (the Champs-Élysées) fabulous.”
The backstory to this observation is a decision made in December by local government to not allow Swedish clothing giant H&M to open a megastore on the storied avenue. Not that there’s anything wrong with H&M. Just seems the line had to be drawn somewhere and it wasn’t drawn when Gap, Nike, Virgin Records, Benneton, Disney and other multinational world brands opened their stores.
Seems that since the Champs has become safer, cleaner and an even more desirable place for tourists to stroll and shop — some half-a million visitors a day — it has become the third most expensive place in the world, in terms of commercial rents. The Times piece reports rents as high as US$1.2 million per year for a 1,000 square foot store.
Those rents have all but run mom & pop shops, jazz clubs, art theatres and other tenants off the boulevard, leaving it a stroll of multinationals with deep pockets, glitzy car dealerships and high-volume, prosaic fastfood joints.
The Champs-Élysées, one might say, has lost its mojo. Traded funk for familiar. Become yet another World Mall Experience. Same-old, same-old.
Were Gertrude Stein alive today, she might be heard to mutter, “A Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks.” And she’d be right.
Messr. Pinquet’s wise observation resonates in Whistler’s seemingly never-ending, soul-searching struggle to answer what should have been a simple question: Should we rezone Larco’s underground space, paving the way for London Drugs to open their store in Little Seattle, or should we not?
We seem to have lost sight — or at least a sizable percentage of the local and semilocal population seem to have lost sight — of what should be the overriding question. The battle, to borrow from Messr. Pinquet, isn’t about keeping London Drugs out. It’s about making sure Whistler is fabulous.
If it isn’t, our collective goose is cooked. And, for those of you addicted to out-of-town shopping, here’s breaking news from the village front: It isn’t!
And it’s getting worse. In addition to the other ubiquitous, soul-deadening shopping experiences, we’re about to get our own Nike store. Hip-hip-hooray. It’ll be the battle of the Swish vs. the Swoosh. Can’t wait for the Disney store to come so I can deck myself out head to toe in instantly recognizable logos.