Pre and post pandemic, China‘s cosmetics and beauty market has been booming and is expected to reach USD 38.7 billion in sales by 2024. Needless to say, foreign brands have traditionally had a large stake in the earnings, but in recent years a number of local brands and retailers have emerged, and quite audaciously so, offering savvy young consumers sophisticated products in alluring retail spaces. One of the local players using this approach in a bold way is HARMAY. Founded in 2013, the multi-brand retailer initially traded online, but launched its first brick and mortar store four years later in Shanghai. Operating design-led retail spaces in the country’s first-tier cities and in Hong Kong, HARMAY continues to expand, opening a second store in Beijing. The company secured a number of adjacent units at Xidan Cultural Plaza, a newly opened and largely underground shopping centre with a lush green park on top, and tapped Shanghai-based architecture practice AIM Architecture to create the interior design. As if taking cues from the shopping centre’s dramatic redevelopment, the chosen design theme is ‘chaos and order’, and as such, the premises bear a transitional character, shifting from a dark and industrial dystopian aesthetic to contrasting settings marked by a sleek and even space-like understatement.
Upon entering, shoppers find a 14-metre display table laden with products below a faux industrial installation and leading towards a corridor with barrow wheels and shelves brimming with more products. It’s more or less a liminal zone, albeit one full of different nooks and crannies laden with alluring merchandise. The new HARMAY store carries the brand’s own line of cosmetics fragrances, but also equivalent items from a range of foreign brands, including Dermalogica, Botanist, Orezza, Rose et Marius and SG79|STHLM. Additionally, the store sees the launch of a new range of tech products in different categories, such as slimming, fat reduction, lip and eye protection and hair care. Another novelty is the launch of introlemons, a new affiliated tea brand. Last but not least, the store introduces a first for HARMAY‘s retail spaces, being a creative space for emerging young artists which aims to increase the appeal for its young target demographic. The retailer’s ambitious expansion is gaining steam, and although Beijing and Shanghai have two stores each, a third store for each city is scheduled to open in the very near future, and we assume that similarly to all other retail spaces, they’ll be designed by AIM Architecture as well.
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