Louvre plays home to Apple's first French store
By Lionel Laurent
PARIS (Reuters) - Computer giant Apple Inc will open its first French store beneath the Louvre museum on Saturday just two weeks after Microsoft opened a theme cafe to promote its Windows 7 software.
Although Microsoft had a head start promoting its new Windows operating system in France, Apple has placed its first store in a prized position in the bowels of the Louvre museum's "Carrousel" shopping center.
Both companies have large operations in France, according to Paul Jackson, an analyst with Forrester Research, but he said Apple in particular was looking to burnish its premium image with its new Paris site.
"It's more to do with the feeling of association with premium shopping than necessarily the market itself," said Jackson. He said France as a technology market tended to lag behind Britain and Germany, which already have Apple stores.
Apple's French expansion will take place against an uncertain economic background, with consumer spending in France still volatile and supported by government measures such as the car scrappage scheme.
But spending on must-have gadgets such as the Apple iPhone has proven robust. France Telecom has sold 1.3 million iPhones between November 2007 and September 2009, while new entrants SFR and Bouygues Telecom have sold around 200,000 iPhones since France Telecom lost exclusivity in spring.
"We are highly confident in the French consumer," Apple's head of retail, Ron Johnson, told Reuters at an event in Paris to launch the store.
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