The Customers

A trio of young Japanese shoppers, wearied but determined, are ninth, tenth and eleventh in line for the Louis Vuitton boutique inside the Galleries Lafayette department store in Paris. "We've been here an hour," says a young man from Tokyo. "No, almost two," chimes in his friend. It's only 11:30 in the morning, but the group is frustrated that the security guard hasn't let a customer past the velvet rope for at least 10 minutes.

Visitors from Japan are responsible for almost half of Louis Vuitton's total global sales. When the Galeries Lafayette boutique opened two years ago the resulting crush...

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