Sep 26, 2008
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H and M gets thumbs up for Champs-Elysees store

Sep 26, 2008

Comme des Garçons for H&M fall 2008
PARIS, Sept 26, 2008 (AFP) - Sweden's fashion giant H and M has been given a green light to set up shop on the Champs-Elysees, despite an outcry over global chain stores taking over the famed avenue, city officials said Friday.

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Over the past two decades, movie houses, small shops, cafes and restaurants have been replaced by a string of mega-shops like the US clothing retailer Gap and luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton.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

A local campaign group, the Comite Champs-Elysees, 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-Elysees, which it said was "essential for Paris' touristic 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-Elysees."

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