Xinyi New Life Square)
(image from www.skm.com.tw)
Taipei is probably the place that has the most Japanese beauty brands outside Japan, making it a great city to shop for the best of beauty from East and West. But why do we want to go to Taipei instead of Tokyo? Apart from the fact that, for some people, it might be cheaper to fly to Taiwan than to Japan, there are some other reasons:
1. Many Japanese beauty items are cheaper in Taiwan (by about 5% and often more, depending on the brand).
2. There is usually not much delay in Japanese seasonal releases in Taiwan. (Many seasonal collections are launched almost simultaneously in Japan and Taiwan.)
3. There are numerous GWP and value set events throughout the year with fantastic deals. (I will go back to this later in the post.)
- WHERE TO GO -
If you have One Day
Take the MRT/Metro to Taipei City Hall Station and head to Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store (Xinyi Branch), which is only a few minutes’ walk towards the immediately visible Taipei 101 building. (Please find the MRT route map here.)
The Xinyi Branch, also called the New Life Square, is a complex of four inter-connected buildings. Each is a good department store in its own right, and the four together provide potentially hours of leisurely (or serious) browsing. Almost all the major beauty brands can be found here, including one of the two Jill Stuart counters outside Japan.
If you have more time, head over to Taipei 101 Mall for SOGO Department Store.
- SOGO Zhongxiao Branch (Zhongxiao-Fuxing Station). Unlike Xinyi New Life Square, this store has nearly all the major brands under one roof. (It also has the other Jill Stuart counter.) It has been one of my firm favorites despite the huge and flashy New Life Square. The new SOGO Fuxing Branch is nearby.
- Watson’s, one of the drugstore chains in Taiwan. There is one store between the two SOGO stores mentioned above.Zhongxiao-Fuxing Station, more information in English here). Opened in April 2007, this is an overseas branch of the Sony-owned Plaza Style drugstore chain in Japan. It stocks many Japanese beauty brands not usually available in other department stores/ drugstores in Taiwan, including Love Clover, Gransenbon, K-Palette, and Restgenol (many of which are Sony’s own brands). You can see some photos of the store here.
(Updated on September 22, 2009)
It was confirmed that all the Plaza stores in Taiwan would be closing, which is really bad news.
One WeekAlso try:
- Dayeh Takashimaya (Zhisan Station, with free shuttle buses between the store and the station, more information in English here). This upmarket department store is off Taipei city center and has a more relaxed feel. It used to have the largest beauty department in Taipei before Xinyi New Life Square was completed. Mitsukoshi Tianmu Branch is nearby.
- Sasa. Banking on the concept of parallel trade, this beauty store’s main branch is next to the SOGO Zhongxiao Store mentioned above. Discounts are offered on most items from various salon/ department store/ drugstore brands. It is a good place to hunt down bargains and past limited-edition items, but staff can sometimes be a little pushy.
- Duty-free galore. The Grand Formosa Regent Taipei claims that its duty-free shop is one of the largest in Asia. It certainly is large, and the beauty department is fairly impressive and features special travel sets not available in department stores. Do bring along your passport and plane tickets to qualify for duty-free prices.
- More department stores: Mitsukoshi Station Branch and Nanjing Branch.
- Away from Taipei: Taichung and Kaohsiung. If you have a week in Taipei, you can certainly take advantage of the new high-speed railway to enjoy day trips outside Taipei. Chung-You and Mitsukoshi in Taichung (50 minutes from Taipei) rival the best department stores in Taipei. (Both are impressively enormous.) As for Kaohsiung (90 minutes, Zuoying Station), my top picks are Han-Shin and Far East.
- WHEN TO GO -
I think the best time to go to Taipei for beauty shopping is between late October and late December. During these two months, all the department store branches take turn to hold the anniversary event. All the events are coordinated so one overlaps another throughout this period when nearly everything in the event is 10% off.
Beauty-wise, apart from the discount, there is a huge array of GWPs and special sets. The limited-edition sets can be especially alluring, as they can be up to 60% off the usual per-ml price.It used to be the case that special sets couldn’t count towards GWP’s, but now many brands allow this to attract more sales. So it is value on top of value (on top of discounts). As far as I know, many special sets from Japanese brands are put together just for the Taiwanese market and are not available in Japan.
(Chanel used to be one of the few brands that didn’t participate in any of the store anniversary events, but now it offers a 5% discount in some events.)
Now nearly all department stores upload their full anniversary event catalogs on-line, so it pays to do a little bit of research.
GWPs and special sets (but not the 10% discount) are also available in Spring Beauty Event (February-March), Mother’s Day Event (April – Mother’s Day), and Mid-Autumn Festival Event (around September). In recent years, there is also a smaller Graduation Season Event in July, which slots in (almost too) comfortably between Mother’s Day and Mid-Autumn Festival. As you can see, there are only a few months when there are no events, so plan your beauty trip ahead of time to shop like a seasoned pro and a unfazed local.
- NOTES -
- Most department stores are open until 9:30pm (or 10pm for some in Kaohsiung).
- Only unopened items may be eligible for refunds.
I hope you will be back next week. We’ll be going to London!