Sunday, December 31, 2006

Get those proles out of my shopping street

Apparently the mayor of Paris is upset that the Champs-Elysees is turning into something downmarket like Oxford Street, and that he has taken steps to stop this happening by keeping shops like H&M out. On the other hand, the fool is even more upset that French citizens are no longer using the Champs-Elysees and it is being taken over by tourists. So he is desperately trying to keep cinemas open in a piece of real estate that cinemas can't afford.

Nobody has to worry about Londoners deserting Oxford Street. Oxford Street is full of shops like H&M and TopShop that Londoners can afford to shop at. But shops that ordinary Parisians can afford to shop at are too declasse for a man like Bertrand Delanoe, the thouroughly upscale mayor of the city so upscale that even the dustmen look down on you with a supercilious sneer.

There is a reason why the businesses able to pay the highest rents for the prime sites on the Champs-Elysees (or Oxford Street) are chains that ordinary people shop at. That is because the middle class collectively have far more money than the kind of people who shop at Louis Vuitton, because there are not very many people who can afford to shop at Louis Vuitton. Shopping streets that real people can shop on are a crucial part of a great, living city. Paris should embrace them.

If Parisians can't afford to shop on Paris's main shopping street and just walk along it to gawk at the designer stores on their way to the cinema, they aren't really doing anything that a tourist couldn't.

Of course, if Bertrand Delanoe wants Paris to be a museum to the French "art of living" rather than somewhere French people live, then he is right to throw the middle class off the Champs Elysees. But then why is he sneering at the tourists?

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