Le Bon Marché
- This article is about the French Department store. For the former chain of American department stores, see The Bon Marché. For the British clothing retail chain owned by Sun European Partners, see Bonmarché.
Le Bon Marché ("the good market", or "the good deal" in French; French pronunciation: [lə bɔ̃ maʁʃe]) was the first modern department store in Paris, founded in 1852 by Aristide Boucicaut. Now the property of LVMH Luxury Group, it sells a wide range of high-end goods, including food in an adjacent building at 38, rue de Sèvres, called La Grande Épicerie de Paris.
A novelty shop called Au Bon Marché had been founded in Paris in 1838 to sell lace, ribbons, sheets, mattresses, buttons, umbrellas and other assorted goods. It originally had four departments, twelve employees, and a floor space of three hundred meters. The entrepreneur Aristide Boucicaut became a partner in 1852, and changed the marketing plan, instituting fixed prices and guarantees that allowed exchanges and refunds, advertising, and a much wider variety of merchandise. The annual income of the store increased from 500,000 francs in 1852 to five million in 1860. In 1869 he built much larger building at 24 rue de Sevres on the Left Bank, and enlarged the store again in 1872, with help from the engineering firm of Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Eiffel Tower. The income rose from twenty million francs in 1870 to 72 million at the time of the Boucicaut's death in 1877. The floor space had increased from three hundred square meters in 1838 to fifty thousand, and the number of employees had increased from twelve in 1838 to 1788 in 1879. Boucicaut was famous for his marketing innovations; a reading room for husbands while their wives shopped; extensive newspaper advertising; entertainment for children; and six million catalogs sent out to customers. By 1880 half the employees were women; unmarried women employees lived in dormitories on the upper floors.
The architecture of the store was very innovative for its time; the 1869 store was constructed by the architect Louis-Auguste Boileau. Alexandre Laplanche ornamented Boileau's ironwork technology. Louis-Charles Boileau, his son, continued the store in the 1870s, consulting the firm of Gustave Eiffel for parts of its structure. Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, the grandson of Louis-Auguste Boileau, worked on an extension to the store in the 1920s. (See the entries of the Boileau architectural dynasty in fr.wikipedia.com.)
In 1922, when the decorative arts were at their highpoint in France, the Pomone design and decorating department was established, following the trend of other Parisian department stores. From 1923–1928, Paul Follot (1877–1941) was its director, followed by René-Lucien Prou (1889–1948) and Albert-Lucien Guénot 1894–1993) up to 1955. Today's home-furnishings inventory primarily consists of brand-names but not so-called white appliances.
- Miller, Michael B., Les Grands Magasins du Bon Marché, Paris, 1914
- Zola, Émile, Au Bonheur des Dames, Paris: Charpentier, 1883. First serialized in the periodical Gil Blas and then published as the 11th novel in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series. Is one of Zola's more positive novels about changes in society during the Second Empire; documents the birth of modern retailing and changes in city planning and architecture; considers feminism; deconstructs desire in the marketplace; and tells in a Cinderella format the life of the Boucicauts who, in the novel, appear as Octave Mouret and Denise Baudu.
- Marrey, Bernard, Les Grands Magasins des origines a 1939, Paris: Picard, 1979
- The Bon Marché: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store, 1869–1920, Princeton: Princeton University, 1981
- Byars, Mel. "Follot, Paul" "Pomone," "Guénot, Albert-Lucien," and "Prou, René-Lucien," The Design Encyclopedia, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, pp. 234, 289, 585, 598–599
- R. Stephen Sennott, ed., "Department Store," Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Architecture, New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, vol. 1, A–F, p. 356
- Sally Aitken, "Seduction in the City: The Birth of Shopping" (Television Documentary) 
Notes and references
- (French) Le Bon Marché official website
- Cape (with Au Bon Marché label), ca. 1890-1905, in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collection Database
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