_Beauty City Shopping Guide

(Selfridges, Oxford Street London)
(image from www.selfridges.com)

After shopping in Tokyo and Taipei for the past two weeks, today we are flying long-haul to London.

I have to say that, personally, purely in terms of beauty shopping, London can’t really compete with Tokyo or Taipei. But it is one of my favorite cities and it does still have plenty to offer when it comes to beauty.

– WHERE TO GO –

If you have One Day

Oxford Street is your best bet, particularly Selfridges Department Store (Bond Street or Marble Arch Underground Station), which I think has the best beauty department in the UK. Apart from almost all the high-end brands (including one of the few Giorgio Armani counters in the UK), it also has a good selection of Japanese brands, such as Shiseido (carrying the usual lines sold in the west), SK II, RMK, and SUQQU. (The SUQQU counter is the only one outside Asia, and three RMK counters in the UK (Selfridges London, Selfridges Trafford Centre Manchester, and House of Fraser Glasgow) are the only ones outside Asia as well.)

If you have more time, head towards the nearby Boots store (on the other side of Oxford Street and slightly more towards Oxford Circus). It is a great place to browse through mid-range and budget British beauty lines, such as Ruby & Millie as well as Boots’ own No. 7, 17, and Natural Collection.

One Weekend

– You can stay on Oxford Street. There are several more department stores further towards Oxford Circus. Debenhams has a great fragrance department, while House of Fraser has a ck Calvin Klein counter. For those of you in Asia where Smashbox is not easily available, John Lewis has a Smashbox counter.

– In the Knightsbridge area (Knightsbridge Station), you can find both Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Apart from probably the best fragrance department in the UK, Harrods also has one of the remaining Kanebo International counters (carrying the Sensai line) in the UK. Over in Harvey Nichols, you can find Chanel Studios, featuring Chanel makeup and skincare items exclusive to the North American and Asian markets. (I have seen many Japan-exclusives there over the years.)

One Week

– If you are a beauty fan and have a few days in London, why not indulge in a British beauty experience? Some of the brands might be available where you are, but I think the experience will be more unique. Apart from the very widely known The Body Shop and Lush, try Eve Lom, Liz Earle, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Penhaligon’s, Jo Malone, Molton Brown, Culpepper, and Floris. (Please check the websites for store locations.)

– Try one of the Space NK boutiques to be surrounded by high-end beauty brands like Chantecaille, By Terry, Darphin and Jurlique. There is a Space NK concession in Harvey Nichols as well.

– If you would like to test out items from Paul & Joe, you can either visit Harrods or Fenwick (Bond Street Station). I’d suggest the counter in Fenwick, which is wider and airier. (The concession in Harrods is currently more of a shelf than a counter.)

– If you are a fan of Japanese cosmetics but don’t usually have easy access to Japanese beauty magazines like Biteki and Voce, do definitely head to JP-Books in Mitsukoshi London and the book shop in Japan Centre. Both are literally seconds away from the busy Piccadilly Station and stock all the major Japanese beauty and fashion magazines. The locations of these two are so central that there is almost no excuse not to have a quick look if you want to check out the latest beauty products and makeup looks from Japanese as well as international beauty brands.

(By the way, the food section of Japan Centre carries lovely (and affordable) bento boxes, which are some of the yummiest and healthiest meal options while you are out and about in London.)

– WHEN TO GO –

I think a good time to go to London for beauty shopping is during the summer/winter sale period. (The summer sale starts in late June and most stores start the winter sale on December 27.)

During the sale period, many high-end brands have about 30% discount (and sometimes 50%) on surplus stock, soon-to-be-discontinued items, and past limited-edition items. (Last year, I was able to purchase Paul & Joe’s Light Cream Foundation, Face Powder and Pressed Powder at 50% off at Harrods and Fenwick. Also, a couple of weeks ago, I saw YSL’s silver makeup palette from last year’s holiday collection in Harrods and a few items from Guerlain’s Pucci summer 2007 collection in Harvey Nichols.)

Also, I have seen brands like YSL and Guerlain start carrying new fall/spring collections during the summer/winter sale period (particularly in top-end department stores like Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Selfridges). These exclusive releases can sometimes be slightly earlier than those in North America and Asia.

– NOTE –

– Just like Japan and Taiwan, opened and used beauty items are usually not refundable.

– Check out this post from Kiss & Makeup for a list of British beauty brands.

– One of the best resources for beauty shopping in London is TimeOut London’s Shops & Services guide (9.99 GBP for the 2008 edition, currently on sale on TimeOut’s website). It is updated annually and the latest edition usually comes out in November.

It covers virtually everything you need to know if one of the reasons for your London trip is to shop. (It is also helpful if you are going to live in London for any period of time.) The Health & Beauty section covers beauty stores, perfumeries, salons, spas, and hairdressers, and all the practical details are listed. (It should be available in most major bookstores in the UK. I think it is worth having even as a souvenir for your one-off London shopping extravaganza.)

This concludes my mini-series on Beauty City Guide, at least for the time being, I hope. I have been to other places like Paris and Hong Kong, but I don’t think I know enough at the moment to bring you my personal recommendations. Hope one day I’ll be able to share my thoughts with you! (But do please e-mail me if you would like a few quick suggestions.)

Related Posts:

Beauty Phenomenon: Seasonal Sale on Cosmetics in the UK

Japanese Beauty Brands in the UK

Japanese Brand Profile – SUQQU

Can’t Live Without – RMK Cleansing Oil N

{ 8 comments }

(Shin Kong Mitsukoshi
Xinyi New Life Square)
(image from www.skm.com.tw)

Today I continue my Beauty City Guide series, and we are flying from Tokyo to Taipei. (Many thanks to those who kindly let me know that you are looking forward to this post.)

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.

One Weekend

Also try:

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.

PLAZA at Breeze Center (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 Week

Also 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!

Related Posts:

Jill Stuart Breaks Record

Jill Stuart Launches in Taiwan

All About Japanese Cosmetics

{ 26 comments }

(Takashimaya Shinjuku:
one of my favorite department stores on earth)
(image from www.takashimaya.co.jp)

Today I start the Beauty City Guide series, which will take you to three cities and look at some of the best places to shop. These articles are mostly based on my own experiences and are not meant to be comprehensive. If you would like to add to them or ask a question, do please leave a comment.

This series simply has to start with Tokyo, probably the best place on this planet to shop for beauty products.

– WHERE TO GO –

If you have One Day

Don’t hesitate and head straight to the Shinjuku area. The Isetan Department Store (Shinjuku branch) is within walking distance from Shinjuku Station. This buzzing emporium is one of the best places to see high-end Japanese beauty brands at a glance.

If you have more time, stop by Takashimaya Department Store (Shinjuku branch), which resides at the south entrance/exit of Shinjuku Station. The neat and structured (and almost regal) layout of the beauty department offers the ultimate browsing experience.

One Weekend

Also try:

Seibu (Ikebukuro branch). I think this and the two above are probably the best three department stores for beauty.

Ginza. For me, Shinjuku is great for pure retail indulgence, while the Ginza area has an upscale and less frantic atmosphere. Beauty-wise, try Mitsukoshi Ginza and Matsuya Ginza. (Matsuya is my favorite department store in this area). Also, stop by the OPAQUE boutique (across the street from Matsuya).

Drugstores. They are relatively easy to find in central Tokyo, particularly around bigger public transportation stations. One of the largest chains is Matsumoto Kiyoshi, whose yellow sign is very easy to spot.

Drugstores carry budget beauty lines whose quality is by no means inferior, and these inexpensive brands offer a great way to try Japanese cosmetics if you have a smaller budget for beauty shopping. (You can also see some department store lines from Shiseido, Kanebo, Kosé, and Sofina in drugstores.) Discounts are offered on many lines, and the amount of reduction and the contents of the value sets can vary even in different branches under the same chain. It can be fun to browse around, but if you don’t have much time and if you see something you like with a good price, consider buying it there and then.

One Week

Also try:

Shu Uemura Omotesanto Boutique. A must for all Shu Uemura fans, it features exclusive items only available in this store.

Shiseido Cosmetic Garden on Omotesanto. This store doesn’t offer retail service. It is a showroom for all the Shiseido products. You can sit down, relax, and test out all the items without feeling any pressure to buy anything.

Hakuho-do. This traditional Japanese business mainly deals with calligraphy supplies but also makes top-quality makeup brushes. Though expensive, they are must-sees for any makeup brush connoisseur. (Check the (English) link above for addresses. If you happen to be near the Los Angeles area, there is a branch in Torrance.)

– Asakusa. Close to Senso-ji Temple, Hyakusuke features traditional Japanese cosmetics used by geisha performers and for other traditional stage productions.

MAMEW. If you are a mascara fanatic, stop by the MAMEW boutique, which is in the Daikanyama area.

– More department stores. Try Lumine, Odakyu, and Keio in Shinjuku (all surrounding Shinjuku Station), Tobu in Ikebukuro, Seibu in Sibuya, and Seibu in Yurakucho.

– More fun in drugstore goodie hunting. See if you can find the best deal! (Some other drugstore chains include Sundrug, Ainz & Tulpe and Plaza Style.)

– WHEN TO GO –

Unlike the UK, the seasonal sales in Japan don’t seem to cover beauty items. So I personally think the best time to go to Tokyo for beauty shopping is simply right after most of the latest spring/fall makeup lines are available. This would be late February and late August (even though many are available in January/July). If you also want to try the latest spring/fall base makeup releases, go one month later.

– NOTES –

– Most department stores close at around 8pm, while many drugstores remain open until later.

– Beauty items purchased in Japan are usually not returnable.

– For information on Japanese beauty brands, please check out my “All About Japanese Cosmetics” category or have a glance over my “Read by Topics” and “Thoughts on My 10 Favorite Brands” lists on the sidebar. Also, please check out these related posts:

Loving Japanese Brands” series

Japanese Brand Profile” series

If I Could Go to Japan Right Now

Next stop: Taipei is probably one of the best places for beauty shopping when it comes to value for money on a regular basis. Find out why next week, along with my shopping recommendations.

Updated on April 20, 2009:

One reader, Kuri, has kindly posted a comment and mentioned that Shiseido Cosmetic Garden had closed. (It is a bit of a shame…)

Thank you for letting me know this, Kuri!

{ 32 comments }