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Handmade in Provence

The MCD never-ending Retail Safari recently did a deep dive into artisan retail in Provence. The South of France has its own unique charm. It has its villages, its distinctive regional cuisine, its rosé wines and even its own dialect. Artisan crafts are strong here and we visited the specialist retail outlets where they are sold.

La Chambre aux Confitures

La Chambre aux Confitures (The Jam Room,) in Aix en Provence is the Aesop of jams.

Designed in a minimal style with full focus on the product in identical jars, they offer classics like Apricot and Strawberry but also more exotic creations like Pear and Chocolate and the unlikely but divine Rhubarb and Geranium.

There is of course sampling, and a wealth of knowledge from the resident "jammelier."

La Savonnette Marseillaise

La Savonnette Marseillaise, spotted in Cassis, sells just one thing - soap.

It’s a family business, manufacturing soap in the traditional manner using olive oil as a base, sea water from the Mediterranean and essential oils from Provence. It makes for an impressive and immersive sensory experience, from the strong colour blocking of the soap wall to the raw blocks of soap on the cutting bench to the intoxicating mix of aromas as you walk through the store.

Again the focus is on the merchandise, and the art of the display is not only in the array of colour but the way in which the offer is linked back to the raw, natural ingredients.

Poterie Ravel

Last but definitely not least is the most immersive, best merchandised, most fun shop we visited on this trip. The area around Aubagne is blessed with rich clays which are perfect for pottery.

Poterie Ravel in Aubagne, Provence, boasts over two thousand square metres of pottery set in a heritage building. A highly localised, artisan experience (you can watch the pots being hand crafted,) it's a melange of factory, museum, and highly creative, sometimes surreal, visual merchandising.

It's a beautiful environment, expertly lit, but the focus is always the merchandise.

And that’s what each of these environments has in common. They have all been created in their own way to showcase the merchandise and offer it in its most natural setting, without distractions.

The lighting in each store is perfect, always aimed at the merchandise. The interior is designed to complement what’s in it, not compete for attention. The art has been to remove everything that doesn’t form part of the perfect environment. The merchandise is the star of the show - as it always should be.


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