French officials snub Swedish store

Sweden's fashion giant H & M has been barred from setting up shop on Paris's Champs Elysees, city hall said on Monday, after a report warned of an invasion of high-street retailers along the famed avenue.

Regional planning officials voted overwhelmingly against H & M’s plans for a Champs Elysees superstore, designed by the star French architect Jean Nouvel and set to open in 2008, after city officials came out against it.

The decision follows a recent report carried out for Paris city hall, which raised the alarm over the growing number of chain stores and fast food outlets that rub shoulders with luxury brands on the avenue.

“Can we risk it turning into another Oxford Street?” the report asks, referring to central’s London’s main shopping avenue.

A deputy to Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe insisted on Monday that the city “has nothing against H & M” and that the decision was intended to preserve a “mix of culture, restaurants and shopping”.

“Clothing stores already account for 39 percent of all traders on the Champs Elysees. We want the cinemas and restaurants to stay,” said Lyne Cohen-Solal.

Paris city hall is working with the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a committee of Champs Elysees traders to draw up a commercial development plan for the avenue by mid-2007.

Unless firm action is taken, they argue, global chain stores will take over the avenue, since they are the only ones able to afford the skyrocketing rents.

But the planning verdict got a lukewarm reception from the Champs Elysees traders’ group.

“This was more than just another shop,” said a spokesman, Dominique Rodet. “It was a concept store – H & M had promised to do something really different.”

According to Le Parisien newspaper, H and M is likely to appeal the decision before France’s national business planning office.