While the layout of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport may leave a lot to be desired • short connection times and long distances between terminals mean that transferring here is not for the faint-hearted • the shopping is excellent. It wasn’t always so; until ten years ago the airport suffered from the same neglect as most of Europe’s state-owned airports, with retail clearly an afterthought. Since then, and particularly since the airport’s privatisation in June 2006, things have improved dramatically with every shop refit and terminal opening, and today the airport has a shopping offer befitting Paris’s status as the style capital of Europe.
That’s mainly due to airport manager Aeroports de Paris’ commendable approach to retail. Rather than renting out its shop spaces to the highest bidder as many other airports do, it forms joint-ventures with retailers for its main shops. The result is that the airport authority has an active interest in improving sales, rather than just collecting rent, while retailers have the security of a long tenure, enabling them to build good-looking shops and invest in service.
Recently the focus has been on improving the fashion offer. With its fashion retail partner The Nuance Group, the airport has opened several new shops since early 2009. Among these are boutiques featuring several high fashion brands including Longchamps, Giorgio Armani, Hermes, Burberry, and Celine. While it’s unusual to see such a wide range of these shops at an airport, its worth noting that these shops house only a token selection compared to their counterparts on the Champs Elysees, at similar prices. If you want a belt, wallet or handbag as a souvenir, you will find it, but don’t expect to browse through a full clothing range.
Cosmetics and fragrances are also a strength at Paris Charles de Gaulle, thanks to retailer Aelia’s strong relationships with beauty suppliers. The newer Beauty Unlimited shops, particularly at T2E, are on a par with the biggest and best on the French high street • Galeries Lafayette, Sephora and Printemps • in terms of presentation, range and service. And if you’re travelling beyond the EU, there are price savings. But the real beauty advantage at Paris is the availability of exclusive products. Both Clarins and Guerlain have made exclusive fragrances only sold at Paris (and other French airports where Aelia runs shops), and several other beauty companies offer new products there exclusively for a time, before releasing them in other shops and countries. Such exclusives are always well promoted, and make a good treat or gift to the style-conscious people in your life.
The Pure And Rare liquor and tobacco outlets operated by Aelia and Aeroports de Paris provide other enticements for seekers of exclusivity. There are occasional reports of a Russian or Chinese traveller spending more than €30,000 on liquor at the airport, and it’s easy to see why; fine French wines are beautifully presented and the offer is backed up with a knowledgeable sales force. And beyond wine, there are other rare or limited-edition liquor products available from time to time, with whisky and cognac particular strengths.
For cigar lovers, Paris Charles de Gaulle offers one of the finest examples of an airport cigar shop anywhere. The flagship La Cave a Cigares is in T2E, with plush wood panelling and armchairs adding to the connoisseurs’ ambience. The selection is superb, the service and product knowledge outstanding and the prices • for those travelling beyond the EU • very attractive. There’s a lot of talk these days of the ‘retail experience’; Aelia’s La Cave a Cigares is as close as you come to having a genuine experience in airport retail.
The size of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport means that the quality of the retail offer varies greatly depending on your location, and it can seem like there is no truly authoritative retail area. As always with airports, a lot depends on which part of the airport you use. But if you are using the newer parts, in particular the satellite terminal S3 and T2E, you will be impressed by the retail offer.