During my summer holiday in France, we were invited to the launch party for a shop that had just enjoyed a refit. But this was not a minimalist Parisien boutique, but a local butcher’s in a village in rural Brittany.
There were several interesting things about this that I thought would be worth comparing with retail fit-outs back home in the UK.
The fact that there was a launch party at all was unusual for this type of business- it’s normally the sort of thing you associate with bars, restaurants, or designer clothes retailers. I was assured it was not normal for a butcher’s in France either.
Food shopping in France differs from the UK- the supermarkets are not all-powerful, certainly not in rural areas. In this village, in the heart of farming country, there are big retailers only 20 minutes away, but most locals prefer to buy quality meat here, some on a daily basis. Some of the animals farmed in his own fields, and while the cost is higher, so is the quality- a fact to which I can personally attest.
The proprietor enjoys a loyal customer base and it’s for this reason that he laid on free barbecue, drinks and nibbles on a Saturday lunchtime. It was quite an event, with even the local mayor turning up.
The shop was still busy during the party- it was business as usual. There was a minor panic when the butcher cut himself and had to nip down the road to the GP for some emergency stitches.
As for the fit-out itself- a considerable investment had been made in taking out the cold store from the front of the building and installing new equipment at the back. I was too shy to ask the figure but I found this, and the effort and planning taken in the refit and redesign to be uncommon.
Moving the cold room opened up the front of the premises, and customers appreciated the feeling of space this gave. It also let more light in from the full-height shopfront. Some of the extra space has been given over to new products (below), such as wine, local eggs, and gourmet products such as dressings and preserves.
The bright red colour scheme with dark surfacing and light grey floor tiles worked for me. It was refreshing to see that thought had gone into the design- so often a butchers features plain white tiles that are difficult to keep clean. The owner had had considerable input into the design but had also involved an architect for the alterations relating to moving the cold room. Neither had he cut costs with the contracting- all aspects of this fit-out had a quality feel to them.
I thought the artwork lent a touch of humour too.
The identity signage was changed from the proprietors name to the more generic ‘Boucherie Charcuterie’ – i.e ‘Butchers / Cold Meats’. This may improve the value of the business, but I’m not sure if that is the reason was altered. Nonetheless I like the bold sans serif typeface that has been used on the dark brown, almost black exterior paint.
The works took 1 month to complete, during which time the business remained open, operating from a back room. The proprietor did not experience a particularly strong drop-off in trade during this time.
Client: Boucherie Didier Denieul
Project type: village butcher, retail fit-out
Location: Brittany, France
Contract value: unknown
Star product: côte de boeuf