Retail notes from Singapore: Essence is in town!

For the last six years I’ve been regularly visiting Singapore. I go there once a year, usually for a month, staying with a friend of mine and taking brief side-trips into the other countries in the region. No matter which country I go to I always spend a lot of time in stores and shopping malls to check out retail trends (also, all of SEA is hot and humid and I like aircon!), and to simply enjoy the Asian mall experience.

Shopping malls in Asia are in an entirely different league compared to European malls. They are usually built on a massive scale, with ten stories or more, cinemas, restaurants, indoor playgrounds and game arcades, most of the newer malls have integrated spaces for public events, concerts, promotions and so forth; they are designed to entice people to spend the entire day there. And they do that very successfully.

One of my first excursions when visiting Singapore is always a trip to the nearest Watsons store, one of the two major national drug store chains. The Watsons chain is present in virtually all Asian countries. It is part of A.S. Watson, the retail division of Hong Kong giant Hutchison Whampoa.

Little known fact which might interest my European readers: A.S. Watson also owns British drug store chains Superdrug, Savers and The Perfume Store, French perfumeries ICI Paris XL and Marionnaud, Kruidvat and Trekpleister in the Netherlands, Drogas in Latvia and they also own 40% of the shares of German drug store chain Rossmann……! Together with their Asian home markets this makes A.S. Watson the biggest global beauty retailer.

But back to Watsons Singapore. The other big player in the drug store segment here is Guardian which is a Singaporean chain. Watsons stores tend to have more international brands than the Guardian stores and I also think they have a bigger choice of brands so I prefer shopping there. The big Watsons outlets in the shopping malls are great places to spot product and brand trends.

I especially like the Watsons in Parkway Parade mall which is close to where my friend lives. Parkway Parade is usually my first port of call when I arrive in Singapore. And guess what: this Watsons outlet now carries German colour cosmetics brand Essence! Proper display case and all (including the customary limited edition [Home Sweet Home, for those who are interested!]. I was completely bowled over with surprise.

Surrounded by the usual Watsons colour cos labels like Canmake, Majolica Majorca and Kate from Japan, Za from Korea, Silkygirl (pan-Asian, belongs to ACG retail group which is active across Asia), Maybelline, Bourjois, L’Óreal, Revlon, Sally Hansen and so on, Essence looked quite exotic.

I think it’ll do well in Asia, it is playful and cute enough to appeal to the Asian customer and at the same time it looks fresh and new. The packaging is less ornate than the Japanese stalwarts like Canmake, Majolica Majorca and so on, so Essence really stands out visually. The pricing is similar to Essence’s European price point: very affordable budget beauty.

I saw an Essence pop-up store in downtown Kuala Lumpur last year (must have been at around this time of year) but at that time Essence was not yet available in Singapore. I’m travelling to Jakarta for a couple of days next week and the week after that I’ll be in Bangkok, so I’ll look out for more Essence doors. [EDIT 22/04/13: Essence is indeed in Bangkok, as is Catrice. Go Cosnova!!!]

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Filed under Industry News, Retail, Travel, Trends

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