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The department store, with 17 locations and sales of about $1.9 billion, has undertaken a four-year renovation starting with its Paris flagship on Boulevard Haussmann. That 500,000-square-foot door boasts footfall of more than 20 million people annually and its sales hit $900 million in 2007, up 5 percent year-over-year.
"I would like to share with you a few thoughts on a key question on our minds, which is: How do we change and grow in a period of slow economic development?" he said. "There is no question that the European and American economies are going through some terrible economic times."
De Cesare explained that according to statistical analysis, there's a good chance economies will have returned to growth within the next year.
"Now it is time to prepare for renewed growth," he said. "Our observation is that during slower economic times, there is a big polarization of consumption. On one hand, the consumer will look at the cheapest and most affordable item. On the other hand, they will look at the brands that provide the highest reward in terms of quality, innovation and emotional content. The brands that are stuck in the middle are the ones that struggle most during recessionary times."
These days, Printemps is focusing on the higher-end consumer by shifting its product offer to more luxurious items.
"We are underserving and underestimating the potential demand and spending power of these consumers and miss a critical growth opportunity," he said. "And I'm not talking here about serving a small niche of billionaires or millionaires, but rather the high and middle classes that even in difficult economic times want to buy a $500 to $600 bag or a prêt-à-porter dress or can spend $300 and $400 for shoes."
Printemps has conducted research into luxury customers.