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H & M wins battle for Champs-Élysées store

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10:19 CEST+02:00
Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz has been given the all clear to open an outlet on the swish shopping street Champs-Élysées. H & M beat off the vociferous objections of Paris city council.

France's top administrative court, the State Council, rejected an appeal by Paris city council which moved in January to block a store licence granted to the retailer, according to deputy Paris mayor Lyne Cohen-Solal.

"We are completely powerless" to stop the spread of big chain stores on what is touted as the most beautiful avenue in the world, she said. The city has now exhausted all chances to appeal.

With the majestic Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Tuileries Gardens at the other, the Champs-Élysées has been at the centre of a fierce debate on the spread of big chain stores since a Virgin Music super-store opened in 1988.

Over the past two decades, cinemas, small shops, cafés and restaurants have been replaced by a string of mega-shops like the US clothing retailer Gap and luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton.

Cohen-Solal says fashion retailers already take up 40 percent of the avenue.

The Champs-Élysées committee, the oldest standing committee in Paris, has raised the alarm over skyrocketing commercial rents that are driving out small businesses on the world-famous avenue.

Its head Jean-Noel Reinhardt said the State Council decision was a "risk" for the Champs-Élysées, which it said was "essential for Paris' tourism development."

Francois Lebel, the mayor of Paris' 8th district which encompasses the avenue, said he would write to the trade ministry to ask for a change in the law to "safeguard business diversity and the spirit of the Champs-Élysées."

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