MARKS & Spencer officially opened the doors of its new store at 100 Champs-Elysées at noon on Thursday - its return to France for the first time in 10 years.
The launch is vital for the company which has just seen half-year profits fall 8%. It expects growth in the French market where its departure in 2001 was greeted with loud complaints from shoppers at the 10 Paris stores and eight in the rest of the country.
Confirmation of Thursday's opening was not given until Wednesday's cocktail party at the exclusive Le Fouquet's restaurant across the Champs-Elysées from the new store. Even inqusitive passers-by were being told by hostesses at the store door that the shop will "open perhaps Thursday, but definitely by the end of the week".
M&S has sites lined up for five other stores in Paris, with some media commentators saying Simply Food branches could open within six months. There are also some plans - as yet undefined - for stores in other parts of the country.
Newspaper Le Figaro said that 80% of Parisians welcomed the firm's arrival on the world's premier shopping street, where its three-storey, 1,400sq.m store is expected to cost €55 million over the 10-year lease.
The store will concentrate on fashion with its leading women's lines such as Autograph, Limited and Per Una. It will have a small food section but no menswear. The store is half the size of its typical UK stores and the decision to carry little food is linked to the opening of dedicated Simply Food stores.
New shops are set to open with a 7,000 sq.m store at So Ouest mall in Levallois-Perret in autumn 2012, a 4,500 sq.m store near the Eiffel Tower in Beaugrenelle (15th arrondissement) in 2014, with others planned for the Aéroville commercial centre near Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2013 and also the Carrousel at the Louvre.