How Paris protects its quarters from desolation

In Paris, the preservation of a manifold retail landscape is a public task. Semaest, a company commissioned by the city, buys shop premises and rents them out to small retailers at favourable rates. Semaest director Emmanuelle Hoss explains here and at the GDI Retail Summit how she is protecting the shopping districts of Paris from desolation.

Laden Paris

Shop rents have been rising for years. This is hard on small, independent shops, especially. In Paris, they can hardly afford the rents anymore. Semaest lends a helping hand. The company is concerned with the preservation of the Parisian retail landscape and wants to prevent the ubiquitous global retail chains from dominating the streets. On behalf of and with funds from the city of Paris, Semaest buys shop premises and rents them out at very reasonable prices to those retailers whose goods best fit into the neighbourhood.

If a shop concept proves successful, the owners have the option to buy the property after a few years. In this way, the investment ultimately pays off for the city.

"My rent is super cheap – I pay a third less than shops of the same size in the street. And what's more, I didn't have to pay any indulgence for taking over the lease. I only needed to invest in the shop fittings," enthuses butcher shop owner Christian Laurent in a Deutschlandfunk podcast.

Hundreds of small shops have opened with the help of Semaest in recent years. And where one small shop opens, others often follow on their own, says Parisian city councillor Olivia Polski: "In this first action, called 'Vitalquartier', we have found that if we lease only five percent of the shops in a street to interesting retailers, we will gradually succeed in replacing the former mono-activity with a manifold shopping experience."

Bookstores enjoy a special status when it comes to maintaining Parisian retail. According to Semaest director Emmanuelle Hoss, they are particularly worthy of support: "We are allowed to intervene with bookshops and publishers throughout Paris. Because they cannot survive without public aid. This is due to the fixed book prices in France and also to the competition from Amazon."