Rubber wellington boots are, you might imagine, a fairly low-cost commodity. But it’s also true that you can spend a fair amount on a pair of Hunters because, well, they’re Hunters.
Address 33 Champs-Élysées, Paris
Opened May 2012
Standalone stores Across France
If you’re French, the same is true of Aigle – purveyors, for the most part, of upscale wellies and, again like Hunters, of associated outdoorwear. And now Aigle has opened a large, single-floor flagship on Champs Elysées in Paris – which would be the equivalent of Hunters taking a unit on Regent Street.
This is an expensive undertaking and Aigle has put its, ahem, best foot forward as it seeks to capitalise on the well-heeled Parisians and the legions of tourists who throng this famous thoroughfare. If you’re in the mood for paying £70 or more for a pair of wellingtons, or fancy some outerwear, then this is a good port of call.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
This store will be known by most people for its boots. And the window to the right of the entrance leaves little room for doubt with its colour-blocked display featuring the item. To the left of the door is a sign informing shoppers that Aigle has been making rubber boots since 1853. The same modus operandi applies within. Over the threshold and it’s boots again with the most impressive thing about the perimeter wardrobe being the section reserved for a steel last, a block of what is presumably the raw material and a series of antique-looking tools. This has been arranged haphazardly to look like a vignette from the Aigle workshop. It works well, as does the vintage feel of the rest of the VM.
02 - CONCEPT
The notion of a workshop meets vintage repository informs the interior’s design and little expense has been spared on the props and fixtures. These include aged-leather seats, trestle tables of the kind used for wallpapering but which are now mid-shop display tables, and matt steel runner rails for the outerwear. Couple this with oak-plank flooring, a cash desk with flat screens showing images of boots being made, and you have a distinctive interior.
03 - SERVICE
Selling rubber boots at Aigle’s prices is exactly that: a sales job. And on the day of visiting a member of staff was attending to the needs of a mature lady in search of dry feet. This was service of the kind you’d usually associate with a high-end clothing store – which is precisely what Aigle is, in spite of its France profonde image. Interestingly, the staff were not stereotypes of Parisian slickness, looking as if they had just returned from a weekend at a farm in the Loire Valley – which is perfectly in tune with the brand.
04 - PRODUCT
Forget the boots for a moment – they’re a given when it comes to Aigle. The bulk of the garments are concerned with clothing the outer man, woman and child – in the shape of hip-length jackets. None of these come in loud colours, with plum, navy and cream meets taupe being the dominant colours. There is also a range of chinos, shorts and checked shirts with a similar palette. If you want to kit yourself from head to foot, all is possible, and you will look like a well-turned out provincial French person.
05 - COMPETITION
Step into the nearest Auchan or Carrefour hypermarket, head for the clothing section and you will see something that is similar to that offered by Aigle. The point is that it will be more basic and will lack the élan displayed by Aigle – you really do get what you pay for. The same is true of many of Aigle’s Parisian neighbours. There are plenty of shops that will offer you countrywear, but few of them do so in a manner that would make you feel happy about striding through the capital’s chichi neighbourhoods while feeling à la mode.
A good offer, although a little on the ambitious side in terms of pricing.
06 - VERDICT - Should do well
Aigle has the capacity to soar with this store – it takes a humdrum article and turns it into something desirable. As well as a consistent store design that is well tuned into the brand’s values, the offer itself has broad appeal. The real question is why Aigle remains such a relative unknown in the UK. There was a pop-up store in Covent Garden last year, but with seven stores in Paris and branches across France, the wonder is that the brand has not donned its seven-league bottes and strode purposefully into UK malls and shopping centres.