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E.Leclerc, Bordeaux

Once again we find ourselves reviewing an overseas store that can only be described as sublime – not a word normally associated with a supermarket. In the UK we have everything from well designed supermarkets to purely functional ones. Yet in France one of its oldest, largest and most cost effective supermarket chains has recently launched a gem of a store.

Maybe the location in beautiful Bordeaux drove the design process along, or more likely the Art Deco building. Either way you can’t fail to be impressed with this latest supermarket. Leclerc worked closely with designers, Malherbe Design to create a store that embodies the spirit of its serene surroundings superbly. They have taken all the original features of the 1930s building that now houses the expanded Leclerc store (it expanded from 3,000 sq m, in another building to 5,100 sq m) and enhanced and enlarged upon them throughout the entire fitout. A wealth of design history has been applied to the new concept. The result of which is an incredibly continental style boutique, which happens to sell groceries.
I love the way they have turned the tables upside down on supermarket design. It is unexpected and unconventional to find food being retailed within such a sassy, creative environment that does not shout sausages, special offers, tea, coffee, etc, etc. This is such a refreshing change. It has been tried in the UK without much success. Waitrose is a fairly slick outfit and the Co-operative has also recently piloted a continental style approach to convenience store selling. Yet, we can’t get away from the tried and tested formula and it shows. This Bordeaux beauty has the edge; it’s state of the art, not in an environmental sense, but in its approach.

At the store’s entrance the atrium features a mammoth, gold, Art Deco style chandelier sculpture suspended above the innocuous bank of escalators. Mainly black with gold edging, the fixtures, fittings and display tables are generously curved and ergonomic in design, once again harking back to a flamboyant era. The walls are covered in Bordeaux stone for a soft, feminine touch and the flooring follows the Art Deco theme with black edged, white tiles laid on the diagonal. Large columns also clad in white with black edging interject into the space. These were previously concrete pillars, part and parcel of the architecture, that have been magnified and together with the flooring are symbolic of the arts and crafts movement of that period. Inside the café Art Deco style lanterns – opaque glass with gold frames – are hung above the tables and chairs in a long row reminiscent of a Parisian café. La Cave or the cellar to us is a shop in shop dedicated to the sale of wine. It’s just gorgeous – very dark shelving units, displaying the wine laid horizontally as in a wine cellar, are individually stacked row upon row. The whole unit is dramatically lit to create an intimate feel. The sign above the door is huge and gold. In fact the signage throughout the store has been treated with real flair. Enormous, gold, Art Deco style lettering forms section headers that are suspended from the ceiling. They are truly revolutionary no backing panels just the letters themselves welded together. Those on perimeter walls are engraved onto the walls in the same style. Finally, the store is lit to perfection. It is neither bright and clinical nor dark and dingy, but rather allows the light to fall and play on the various surfaces creating a warm and vibrant ambience that is attuned to its innovative interior.

E.Leclerc, Bordeaux is a beacon in grocery retailing and one that ought to be developed and improved upon. It is exactly what our country needs to get its culinary juices flowing again, mirroring the dedication and devotion of our passionate chefs. It is definitely another of SDEA’s latest and greatest stores.

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