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Monday, January 14, 2008


PARIS (AFP) - The famed Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, where Charles de Gaulle celebrated liberation from the Nazis, has lost another round in its battle against an invasion by global chain stores.
Faced with skyrocketing rents, the last small privately-owned pharmacy on the Champs-Elysees closed last week and the post office will soon follow suit, unable to meet the demands of property barons.

"It's over for small business. They don't want us anymore," lamented Ludovic Aissy, who ran the decades-old Lincoln pharmacy for nearly 30 years, filling prescriptions and offering a small selection of beauty products.

"The Champs-Elysees are just one big showcase for global brands," said Aissy, who was forced to close down his business on December 31 after the owners withdrew his lease.

Aissy had successfully challenged in court an attempt by the owners to double his rent, already hovering at 10,500 euros (15,500 dollars) per month, when they decided to end his contract altogether.

With the majestic Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Tuileries Gardens at the other, the Champs Elysees has fuelled much debate over its commercial development since a Virgin Music super-store opened its doors in 1988.

Over the past two decades, movie houses, small shops, cafes and restaurants have been replaced by a string of mega-shops like the US clothing retailer Gap and luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton.

Amid a growing public outcry, authorities in late 2006 turned down a request by the Swedish clothes retailer H and M to open an outlet on the Champs Elysees, touted as the most beautiful avenue in the world.

"Our concern is that the Champs Elysees will become a mall, offering exactly the same shops that can be found in London or Los Angeles," said Francois Lebel, the mayor of Paris' 8th district which encompasses the avenue.

Lebel said city authorities had little leverage to prevent commercial rents from hitting the roof and driving out small businesses on the Champs Elysees.
"The question now is what is going to open in their place," he said.


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