The ESSEC GMBA Luxury Brand Management class of 2023-2024 had the opportunity to visit La Samaritaine in Paris at the beginning of November. DFS has been one of ESSEC's GMBA partners for over 15 years now in Hong Kong, Singapore and now in Paris at the recently renovated la Samaritaine just as the Christmas season was beginning to come alive! Many might recall the majestic rebirth of La Samaritaine in 2021 after its closure for 16 years. With the iconic sun-flowered colored façade with extravagant art nouveau decorations, la Samaritaine has finally opened its doors to Parisian clients and international tourists.
Founded by Ernest and Marie-Louis Cognacq-Jay in 1870, la Samaritaine has been the symbol of the Parisian Spirit at the heart of Rivoli Street. The group first received an introduction to the history of La Samaritaine and later went down to the physical retail space to uncover the hidden brand stories, DNAs, retail, and marketing strategies. La Samaritaine was first founded by a visionary couple, Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jaÿ. However, how La Samaritaine expanded and developed to its current structure involved the couple’s encounter with artists, architects, and many other individuals. The rich history behind the department store tells a unique heritage la Samaritaine inherits.
Coincidentally, the day of our visit was the eve of the Samaritaine Christmas campaign, ‘Paris Jubile’. In collaboration with the film ‘Wily Wonka’, the store was decorated with colorful and sparkling ornaments with a playful spirit. The main entrance was decorated by the candy cane chandelier, with beautiful Christmas wreath all around. The entire building was filled with cheerful and bubbly atmosphere, making all the consumers smile as they enter the store.
Not only the emotional elements, but la Samaritaine operates under a unique positioning that contrasts with other department stores in Paris. Not only they provide special customer experiences for the local Parisian clients but also for the international tourists. La Samaritaine provides a different entrance for big group of tourists in the basement floor, which is characterized by a long concourse furnished with long monitors highlighting history of la Samaritaine. They have also prepared a dedicated tax refund corner with little refreshment corner, where a group can spend time relaxing after a long day of shopping.
The overall experience was very intimate and heartwarming. It was valuable to experience the brand spirit of la Samaritaine, and learn about the history and the current strategy from the business perspective.
Written by Akiyo Hayashi, current ESSEC GMBA participant