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Landmarks for shoppers in Paris, the concept of major department stores took hold in the mid-19th century. The idea was to offer a very broad assortment of merchandise under one roof, organized by departments, in a space ranging from 2,500 to 43,000 m2 in surface area. Another innovation of the time was to set non-negotiable prices: this was the end of haggling for purchases.
The "father" of the big department stores was undoubtedly Aristide Boucicaut, founder of the Bon Marché in 1852. And to provide lodgings for well-to-do customers arriving from the provinces to shop there, Mrs. Boucicaut decided to set up a hotel along the Rue de Sèvres where their store was located: thus, the Hôtel Lutetia came into being.
The success of the Bon Marché was emulated in the Paris business world, and during the second half of the 19th century, many big-name stores made their appearance: Printemps, La Samaritaine, Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville, Galeries Lafayette, etc.
The big Paris department stores are architectural masterpieces that have always been at the forefront of technological innovations, especially Printemps, which was the first to install elevators, presented at the World's Fair of 1867, and to use electric lighting on its premises, intended to reduce the risk of fire. La Samaritaine, in turn, is a splendid example of the Art Nouveau and Art Déco styles.
The big stores still in existence today are a charming excuse for a stroll, both for their remarkable architecture and their tempting display windows: Printemps, Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayette, Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville, etc.