BHV’s history is firstly the story of an engineer, Xavier Ruel, who moved to Paris in 1852 with his wife and children to seize the opportunity provided by the vibrancy of the Second Empire.
As he observed the inevitable success of the retailer on the corner of rue de Rivoli and rue des Archives, Xavier chose this spot to sell “toys, nick-nacks, Paris souvenirs and small items”. According to legend, the Empress Eugénie made a generous donation to Ruel for having saved her from a car accident. With this, the couple opened the “bazar Napoléon” in 1856.
With a good head for business, Ruel quickly gets to grips with the ins and outs of modern retail and in 1870 his business occupies the entire space at 54, rue de Rivoli.
The Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville is born, and its modernity fascinates the Parisian housewife.
In 1878, Xavier Ruel buys the first building on the corner of rue de Rivoli and rue des Archives.
At BHV, modernity and humanity go hand-in-hand. Ruel founds an institution and commits to the well-being of his employees: social protection, dispensaries and leisure.
The 20th century breathes new life into BHV.
After the death of Xavier Ruel in 1900, fashion takes up position in the shop, which is expanded once again. The company Veuve Ruel et Cie is founded. It employs 800 people.
New extensions are inaugurated.
The rotunda, situated on the corner of rue de Rivoli and rue du Temple, is inaugurated.
Its general store vocation in the heart of the capital and its wide product assortment also attract artists.
BHV becomes a supplier to artists. Marcel Duchamp has often confirmed the origin, in 1914, of the famous Bottle Rack (also known as Bottle Dryer or Hedgehog) made from galvanised iron, bought from BHV exactly as it was shown in the sales catalogue. This founding act led to a new, artistic way of viewing everyday objects. After Duchamp, several artists come to BHV to buy their supplies.
A very advantageous benefit system is created.
Always ahead of its time, BHV is the first shop to grant paid holiday.
BHV witnesses the Liberation of Paris.
After the war, the shop embarks on a modernisation policy and opens up new areas, including the famous basement.
BHV establishes a modern sales area with the construction of the first escalator in the rue de Rivoli shop.
BHV Rivoli is also the first shop to have air conditioning in 1966.
The company continues its expansion with the opening of its first branch store in Paris, in rue de Flandres.
Other shops are subsequently opened in the greater Paris region.
The company is listed on the stock exchange in the early 1960s. Following this, Nouvelles Galeries takes a stake in the company’s capital.
Interest-free credit marks the beginning of new services for customers.
With the acquisition of Nouvelles Galeries, BHV becomes part of the Galeries Lafayette group.
BHV innovates and creates new specialised concepts, such as BHV Homme, la Niche, le Vélo, etc.
The exhibition “Courant d’art au rayon de la quincaillerie paresseuse” [Art movement in the lazy hardware department] recalls the link between BHV and artists and inaugurates a new exhibition space in the rotunda on the sixth floor of the shop.
A space entirely dedicated to women’s footwear is inaugurated and firmly entrenches the shop in the world of fashion.