H&M to close its controversial Paris store

Swedish ready-to-wear clothing giant H&M announced plans on Wednesday to close its Champs-Elysées store, 11 years after a controversial opening on Paris' most celebrated avenue.

Cars on the Champs-Elysees, Paris
Chain stores and heavy traffic on the Champs-Elysees have become a sore point for Parisians. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

The company said consultations were underway with trade unions on the plans to shut down the site, part of a global transformation to respond better to customer demands and ensure stores are optimally situated.

In April, H&M announced  plans to shut 350 of its 5,000 stores worldwide, while opening up 100 new locations. H&M said all 105 employees at the Champs-Elysees store would be offered jobs in its other Paris shops.

The retail clothing sector has struggled for years with the rise of online shopping, and the coronavirus pandemic only added to the trouble as stores were shuttered under health orders.

H&M had waged a five-year legal battle with Paris authorities who wanted to keep the discount clothes shop off the avenue.

The Champs-Elysée has become an increasing sore point for Parisians, as the famous and once exclusive avenue gradually filled up with chain stores and tourists, while heavy traffic along the route made it noisy and polluted.

The mayor’s office has unveiled a plan to completely pedestrianise the avenue, turning it into ‘an extraordinary garden’. 

However the €250m transformation will not take place until after the Olympics in 2024.

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Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro