I arrived in Tokyo a couple of days ago and it’s lovely to be back! It’s also turning into a busy week again: Tokyo Design Week starts in a few days – look out for a show review soon! – and I’ve already started to check out my favourite beauty stores to see what’s been happening in the last six months.
My friend Julia from organic blog Beautyjagd is also in Tokyo at the moment and she suggested we visit the new Ainz & Tulpe drugstore across from the East Exit of Shinjuku Station. Which is what we did – and what a fabulous store it turned out to be!
During my last visit in Tokyo I had checked out a couple of smaller Ainz & Tulpe outlets in Shinjuku and Shibuya. Yes, I did notice the difference to the traditional Japanese drugstore retailers like Sun Drug, Matsumoto Kiyoshi etc. – Ainz & Tulpe stores are much more stylish with good product presentation and a modern store layout – but other than that the chain didn’t leave a lasting impression.
However, the chain’s new Shinjuku store is in a different league altogether. It was opened in July 2015 and is quite spectacular – three floors with a total retail space of 1,290 sq m. Located opposite the East Exit of Shinjuku station, close to Lumine Est department store, Ainz & Tulpe’s new Tokyo flagship offers a fabulous selection of Japanese and international beauty brands, gadgets, fragrances and something that I’ve only seen at Tokyu Hands so far: regional cosmetics from Japan. Click on the link below for a pictorial tour of the store and more info on the Ainz & Tulpe chain.
The company behind Ainz & Tulpe is pharmacy group Ain Pharmaciez. According to their website, Ain is the market leader in the dispensing pharmacy sector in Japan. In 2002, Ain group expanded into the beauty retail business and opened the first Ainz & Tulpe drugstore [note: this company information comes from the official Ain Pharmaciez website, filtered through Google Translate!]
There are currently some 57 Ainz & Tulpe stores across Japan. They are urban drugstores that target a clientele of sophisticated 20+ women – and the Ainz & Tulpe stores definitely look more stylish than the outlets of the big Japanese drugstore beauty retailers like Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Sun Drug, Cocokara Fine or Sugi Drug.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the name: it was inspired by the German words for “1” (Eins) and “tulip” (Tulpe) – Eins because it is the number one in the beauty business/best drugstore chain and Tulpe because it’s a fresh, beautiful spring flower. Check it out on the Ainz & Tulpe website if you don’t believe me ; )
The Shinjuku store is the second largest Ainz & Tulpe in Japan and it is the chain’s Tokyo flagship store. The biggest Ainz & Tulpe store, Le Trois, was opened in September 2015 in Chuo ward in Sapporo province. It sounds pretty spectacular – eight floors plus two basement levels including beauty clinics and salons; it’s positioned as a beauty retail and experience destination. And the company is hinting that the new Shinjuku and Sapporo stores will define the future strategy of Ainz & Tulpe. Sounds promising!
But now, let’s check out the Shinjuku Ainz & Tulpe! The store is easy to locate: just look for the giant glass-fronted entrance! As you enter you see a counter of Japanese brand Ayura on the left hand side. On the right side of the entrance area is a large boudoir-inspired retail area with Lips & Hips skin, bath and body care and straight ahead you’ll find colour cosmetics and beauty gadgets.
Ayura and Lips & Hips are both Ainz & Tulpe-owned brands. In June 2015, Ain Pharmaciez acquired the Ayura division from Japanese C&T manufacturer Shiseido. Ayura is not exclusive to Ainz & Tulpe stores, the brand is a classic department store brand and it is also retailed online but from now on it will be a key beauty label in Ainz & Tulpe stores, says the company.
Lips & Hips, on the other hand, is a real own label brand. Launched in July 2015, Lips & Hips was introduced first at the new Shinjuku Ainz & Tulpe but is currently being rolled out to the Sapporo store. Eventually, there will be stand-alone Lips & Hips stores as well. Ain has also announced that it will continue to launch new own label beauty brands in other product categories.
Then we are taking the escalators up to the first floor: skin care heaven! Japanese brands, Asian brands, Western brands plus a special section for imported organic beauty brands – most of them from Germany: hello Logona, Lavera, Weleda and Dr. Hauschka! The organic section also features Cattier from France and EO Products from the US.
There are several Japanese organic beauty brands such as Leaf & Botanics and a number of natural-inspired brands which are shelved separately – I’m impressed that Ainz & Tulpe is making such a clear distinction between the certified organic import brands and the natural-inspired and near-natural labels.
[EDIT: 24/01/2020: I’m sad to report that the display of regional beauty brands at this Ainz & Tulpe has disappeared; I’m not sure why exactly – presumably stagnant sales or a change in marketing strategy? – but it’s still very disappointing. Sigh.]
And now we are moving on to my personal highlight: the regional Japanese beauty brands!
They are displayed near the cashier area and are clearly flagged up as “made in Japan”; there are also a couple of strategic “tax-free shop” signs. On each shelf you have a little poster with a map of Japan, the name of the province and the ingredient that this province is most famous for: Aomori, for example, is known for apples, Akita for rice, Niigata for sake, Yamagata for pears, Okayama for olives, Okinawa for camellia seed oil….
Most of the regional beauty brands have a natural slant and some are even organic – like Satamisaki Organics from Kagoshima prefecture in Kyushu, Japan’s most Southern island. Kyushu has a sub-tropical climate and plant-life and Satamisaki’s products include some very interesting-sounding herbal extracts – shell ginger, for example (Alpinia zerumbet, a perennial ginger plant). I simply couldn’t resist and bought the Satamisaki Shell Ginger Water and the Tsubaki Balm. I was also delighted to see cute little Hokkaido brand Lavender+ on the Hokkaido shelf – I had first met the brand at CosmeTokyo 2014 trade show last year and liked it immediately. There is also a large shelf with Makanai Cosmetics (a charming Japanese organic beauty brand).
The first floor also features the “Ayura” café where you can refresh yourself with a coffee, ice cream or something sweet. But we still have the basement area to visit so we are going down to B1F and there is bath and body care, hair care (plus a special section for salon hair care), foot care (a very large shelf!), hosiery, health foods, beauty and wellness gadgets and the counters for brands like Kosé, Sofina and Kanebo – classic Japanese high-end perfumery beauty brands. In the basement area you’ll also find the tax-free counter (the store is heavily geared towards tourists – hence the regional Japanese cosmetics and Makanai which are popular beauty souvenirs).
I really liked this store – great choice of C&T brands, some cool organic beauty labels, regional Japanese cosmetics; Japanese rock/pop as a background music and an elegant and fluid product presentation. And they are open until 11pm every day!