E-tailers that choose to open physical outlets cannot rely on the convenience of their original medium. Instead, some are choosing to intelligently provide a slower, more considered experience in their stores – and a cosmetics store in Hong Kong does so by incorporating the type of treasure-hunt feel that can only happen in person.

When shopping in-store, current beauty consumers tend to head straight to a specific aisle, brand and product, having been thoroughly informed by online research and social media influencers. And as online shopping for cosmetics has proved to be 80 per cent more satisfying than shopping in-store, how does one bring some of that into what has now become a mostly transactional brick-and-mortar experience? One creates the environment for satisfaction by investing in a sense of discovery.   

That’s what Harmay, a Chinese cosmetics e-tailer, did in its new Hong Kong shop. Instead of openly displaying the inventory, they’ve hidden the items inside categorized drawers, so as to turn the straightforward shopping experience into a treasure hunt. That is: shoppers looking for a hand cream won’t be able to go straight for their known favourite; instead, they have to snoop around the category drawers – something that can lead to finding new favourites. By introducing serendipity into the physical shopping experience, they’ve added an element that can compete with online shopping’s efficiency.

We addressed that by creating a store that’s all about exploration and discovery you find things that you didn’t even know you wanted

The store was designed by AIM Architecture, emulating an old-school chemist’s locale – that explains why the drawers are nearly plain and made of stainless steel. By stacking them up towards the first floor, the studio forces shoppers to play the role of chemists – some may need to use a ladder in order to reach their desired category. By using the discovery concept, the 141-sq-m space can afford to only display a rotating, limited selection of the full range of products available in the online mothership – a great real estate advantage in Hong Kong.

‘We questioned the role of the store, because when shopping for cosmetics, you can’t really beat online efficiency,’ explained AIM’s Feng Xie. ‘So we addressed that by creating a store that’s all about exploration and discovery – that’s how you find things that you didn’t even know you wanted.’


As a growing number of e-tailers push for a stronger physical presence, they should aim to give consumers a more exciting in-store experience that can make up for the reduced inventory.