DUFAYEL, THE WORLD’S LARGEST EMPORIUM

In addition to grandiose hallways and seemingly endless display shelves, the sumptuously appointed Grands Magasins Dufayel boasted a palm court, a bicycle garage, stabling for horses, banking facilities, and interior design studios specialized in fitting out hotels, châteaux and private houses.

This cathedral of modern commerce opened in 1856, and by 1904 it was serving over three million customers a year and employed a staff of about a thousand. Its almost unlimited product range offered shoppers a vast array of irresistible temptations.

Thanks to his 380,000 sq. ft. department store near the boulevard Barbès in Paris and an entire seaside resort (le Nice-Havrais) located less than two hours from the capital, Georges Dufayel became the so-called “Napoleon of credit sales”, reigning supreme over “the world’s largest emporium”.

In 1902, he bought the mansion that stood at number 76, avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Duchesse d’Uzès. Three years later it opened as the Hôtel Dufayel, referred to in the New York Times as “one of the most expensive hotels in the world”. Some of the columns from the building, where Dufayel himself never lived, were used in 1926 for the construction of the Arcades des Champs-Élysées, about which Devambez published an elegant illustrated book in 1927.

Une visite aux Grands Magasins Dufayel, Paris, Devambez, ca. 1905

Léonard Rosenthal, Alfred Détrez, Une merveille du Paris moderne : les Arcades des Champs-Élysées, Paris, Devambez, 1927