China makes a grand retail entrance into the prestige skincare market

Shanghai – In Asia, skincare is mostly the domain of Japan and South Korea – Shiseido and Amorepacific are two veritable global giants. But there is a new entrant to the game: China. The country claims the world’s third-largest consumer market for prestige skincare, topped only by Japan and the United States. Beyond size – numbers one and two are each twice as large as the Chinese market – the main difference separating the three is that the US and Japan are both native consumers and exporters, while China almost always assumes the role of importer.

And yet, as the Made in China 2.0 wave expands to include new manufacturing categories, it’s also reached the beauty industry. Here’s where things get really smart, really quick: instead of competing with well-known brands under their rules, local players are using spatial design to target newly formed niches.

We intended to demonstrate the magic behind [these high-tech] beauty products

Take, for example, Junping. Founded by a male beauty blogger, the brand offers products that feature traditional natural ingredients backed by intensive R&D. It’s a formula made famously digestible by South Korea’s beauty industry, where cute fruit-shaped containers hide an astounding amount of scientific development. And so, Junping’s is sending a different message: this is a brand aimed specifically at consumers who appreciate knowing the precise formulation behind each product. Enter the Junping Lab shipping container.

Conceived by XU Studio, the 28-sq-m pop-up store is made of stainless steel and Corian in pristine white. Its central element is a bar equipped with three magic mirrors, which allows visitors to detect skin issues and receive highly personalized, directly customizable product recommendations. Throughout, a luminous lamp-film setup simulates the effect of a skylight, turning the inside of the container into a transparent surface. For those outside the space, a blur of transparent acrylic tubes positioned vertically provides a window into the lab. ‘We intended to demonstrate the magic behind [these high-tech] beauty products,’ explained XU Studio partner Sabrina Xu.

Wisely, this container travels to the turf of research-savvy young women

But beyond the visual and functional feast it is, one of the smartest choices in the pop-up strategy is where it is located: the campuses of science and engineering universities in Shanghai, the turf of research-savvy young women. A long queue forms outside Tongji Jiading one week, followed by troves of curious Jiao Tong students the next. Junping’s roving laboratory targets an audience that already has a positive relationship with that environment – so go right ahead and connect the marketing dots.

Although the brand was previously available on the Alibaba online platform, this is Junping’s first foray into physical retail. The targeted bet seems to have paid off, as the company reported record sales for last November’s Singles’ Day. ‘After the Junping Lab tour, it achieved a revenue of 25 million RMB [€3.2 million] in one day,’ said Xu. ‘This shows the growing recognition of local brands. I think that in the near future Chinese brands will become strong players in the skincare market.’

This piece is part of our newest print issue, Frame 127. For more on how the luxury retail world is devising new spatial options to match the interests of a hard-to-please crowd, purchase your copy here.

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