Wednesday, September 27
It must be unending – trying to keep all the
fences around all the parks in
Today, I noticed that they finally removed this
pink face that had been in the Medici fountain all summer. I wonder what odd thing they will put in
there next summer?
I just learned today that La Coupole (see the info and photos on September 2) is entirely
non-smoking – all 440 or so places – and has been since July 1. Smoking there is allowed only the covered
terrace, which faces a busy street (boulevard
Our two favorite “new finds” in terms of restaurants this summer are La
Petite Chaise on rue de Grenelle in the 7th,
and L’Espadon Bleu on rue des Grands
Augustins in the 6th. Both are very highly recommended. The street-level dining room at La Petite
Chaise seems to be entirely non-smoking, too.
Among my favorite shops in
Économie just published a two-page spread on Nicolas
which I found to be very interesting.
Nicolas has 450 stores, 60 percent of which are in the
Thirteen of the stores also are cafés.
Nicolas is struggling a bit now because 70 percent of the French buy
their alcohol in big box stores, which they call “les grandes
surfaces” or “en grande distribution.”
We think of the French as being real wine connoisseurs. However, 2 out of every 5 French people
choose their wine according to the price.
The average price of a bottle of wine purchased at Nicolas is 4.50
euros. The average sale is 9 euros
(meaning that people typically buy two bottles at a time, which fits with the
way people in Paris seem to shop for groceries – usually they buy only enough
for a day or two, unless they have a car and make it out to the big box
stores where they will stock up).
The typical Nicolas customer is male (60%), although women are buying
more and more. The typical customer at
Nicolas is Parisian, and he is between 35 and 50 years old.
Only a third of the customers are regular consumers, compared with 60% in
Twenty-five percent of total Nicolas sales are from the sale of
champagne, which is much more expensive than the average Nicolas bottle of
The under 35 crowd is more interested in beer and soda, so Nicolas now
sells those items in its stores, in an attempt to attract the younger crowds.
The Nicolas family started its first wine store in 1822. Back then, wine was not typically sold in
bottles. (So what was it in? Wineskins?
I don’t know. I do know that
people used to buy beer by the bucket – their own bucket. No need to make bottles that way.)
Etienne Nicolas revolutionized the consumption of wine by 1900 by
generalizing the usage of the 1-liter glass bottle. (When and why did it change to .75
liter? I don’t know.) He also started home delivery of wine, which
was done by pushcart.
By 1922, Nicolas became one of the first enterprises to do its own
marketing and advertising. They used
the image of Nectar, a funny looking guy who would deliver 32 bottles of wine
using only two hands. Each bottle bore
the Nicolas label. This icon was used
by Nicolas just up to the 1970s.
In 1930, Nicolas undertook the renovation of its stores. Each was re-done in a very Art Deco style,
and for the first time was organized in self-service fashion. (Before, I guess you went up to a counter
and asked a clerk for whatever wine you wanted.)
The big box stores started to hurt Nicolas’ business by 1984. Nicolas sold its distribution centers that
it had used to stock its products since 1918.
From then on, Nicolas bought wine directly from the winemakers. This is the point when Nicolas was no
longer a wholesaler, but just a retailer.
In 1988, still hurting from the advent of the big box stores, Nicolas was
sold to a conglomerate called Castel.
To compete, Nicolas now promotes itself by promoting their role as
advisors on the subject of wine. And I
do find that useful, particularly in this shop near us in the 6th. In every Nicolas that I have been to, I
have found the clerks and shopkeepers to be extremely courteous, too. That is not so true of those who work in big
box stores . . . .