...Continued from page 1

fnac started out as a sort of co-op by being a buying centre for teachers. The idea was to offer teachers lower prices and a greater selection. The company itself was at the beginning sort of a co-op as well; but has since become a corporation with shares on the exchange.

But fnac continues to have a consumer-oriented attitude. It agitates for lower sales tax on records and computer materials for example; claiming these are not luxury items.

In its areas of merchandize, fnac has a big selection. It can only be so big though, so there a niches left open to competitors and specialty stores. fnac also does not have the lowest prices; but it forces its competitors to have thin margins.

For most people, fnac has what they want, for a fair price. Therefore, fnac is popular and does a huge business, being a leader in France for books and records. The new store is fnac's fourth multi-product one in the city; and the chain has 55 outlets in France - many of them photo-service bureaus. Everybody who lives here buys something at fnac sometime.

fnac not only sells books, records and photographic gear, but it also promotes authors, performers and photography in general - by putting on book signings and photo expos and by holding conferences and sponsoring cultural events.

The one thing I do not know about fnac is whether its after-sales service is any good. Nothing I've ever brought there has broken.

A month ago, fnac opened a new store in the centre of Paris, between the big department stores on the boulevard Haussmann and the gare Saint-Lazare.

For the occasion, the fnac has an exhibition of photographs Ingrid Bergman photo by Yul Brunner by Yul Brynner. Before becoming an actor, he was a circus performer in Paris and sang in Russian nightclubs in the city. He was also a radio announcer and produced programs for TV.

Yul Brynner at work, photographing Ingrid Bergman and incidently, himself. Photo: Yul Brynner©1955

After the success of the 'King and I' on Broadway, he became a leading actor in Hollywood films. During all this time, he was a passionate photographer; and his daughter, Victoria Brynner has written a book about him as such, entitled, 'Yul Brynner: Photographer.' The photos she has selected will be on display at fnac Saint-Lazare until Saturday, 6. September.

The old Passage du Harve was opened on 7. September 1846 and although it never had the elegance of other passages around Paris, it always had the greatest number of people passing through it. Despite this traffic, no attempt was made to keep up its appearances and its only attraction in my memory was the electric-train shop at the entrance off the pedestrian rue de Caumartin.

The interior of the building was torn down and the passage has been replaced by a new one, while the exterior of the Haussmann-style building has been cleaned up. It retains the notion of the 'passage,' but you will recognize it for the mall it is.

As the location is right on top of a couple of new underground lines - Eole and Météor - nearing completion - and the new Passage du Harve has a direct underground link to the station, this whole area will come in for a non-stop upgrade as major merchants attempt to locate near this even greater flow of potential customers.

The photograph, 'Yul Brynner Photographing Ingrid Bergman,' is used by permission. An original print of it can be seen in the Galerie Photo at fnac Saint-Lazare.

Some URLs

If you have wondered what kids in France are watching this summer, then check out cable-TV's 'Canal J' Web site. The bits of this I see occasionally remind me it all started modestly with the 'Mickey Mouse Club.' Nearly the same thing now; but in color and in French.

If you have ever wondered about what Paris' regional transit authority thinks, it has a small poster showing a grand-dad with a surfboard, with their Web address on it. As far as I know, you can't take the métro to any surfing beaches, but maybe the RATP knows better.

To find out how to take the 'A' train in France, the SNCF - France's national railway system, has a Web site which tells you all you need to know - I think. Since I do not think I'll be taking the train to any place except Paris, I didn't check out the whole site - that's for you to do.

Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 1.21 - 15. July 1996 featured the columns - Metropole 'Diary' - Out In the Country; and 'Au Bistro' - At Long Last, the 'Real' Holidays Can Begin. Articles in the issue were: count-down eiffel 'Bastille Day in Paris, CCVI Edition - Long-time Popular Favorite in France - Revolution !' The second feature was 'Bastille Attacked and Captured - Shopkeepers and Tradesmen Defeat Swiss Guards,' and 'Showtime at the Iron Lady - the Tour Eiffel.' The last feature was 'The Garage of Dreams - Nightmares Under the Hood.' Ric's Cartoon of the Week rounded off the issue.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 2000:
Only 901 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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