I just returned from a short city trip to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The city is absolutely worth a visit: a compact old town center which is perfect for walking around all day, with a wonderful hodge-podge of architectural styles (art nouveau/1930s/1950s and later). Most of the buildings are still very much in disrepair and/or graffitied/vandalised but enough houses have been renovated and restored that you can see the beauty of the cityscape.
My first visit to Sofia was in 2008 and back then the city looked a lot more – well, let’s say: unfinished! Today there is an almost palpable creative energy: new cafés and bars are opening in beautifully renovated historic buildings and small art galleries, fashion boutiques and maker/design stores are popping up everywhere.
And organic beauty/food retail chain Zoya is a perfect example of this new kind of urban development. The Bulgarian company’s first store was opened in 2009 which, presumably, makes Zoya one of Sofia’s organic retail pioneers. Today, Zoya operates three stores in Sofia as well as a flourishing online shop.
This is more of a pictorial article! I was in Ginza a few days ago and whilst I was navigating my way through Ginza subway station I almost accidentally strayed into Tokyu Plaza department store. Like so many of Tokyo’s department stores and malls, Tokyu Plaza has several direct exits to the underground public transport system. On my way to the Marounochi line I saw one of the exits for Tokyu Plaza and went in; was charmed by the food places and restaurants in the basement levels and decide to explore the store further. And this is how I ended up walking around the Hands Expo Culture Mall for almost an hour, admiring arts, crafts and foods from all over Japan.
I discovered this store purely by accident: I was actually walking to Gwangjang Market when I saw the sign “Coffee & Cosmetic” on the other side of the street. These are two of my favourite things; so I obviously had to go and check this out. Turns out that Agarbatti is a really cool DIY cosmetics store / garden café.
Here are some of the Retail Focus articles I wrote for CBM Magazine in 2016. Retail Focus is a monthly article series of short company/brand/store profiles.
I often write about retailers or stores that I have come across on my travels – like Japanese drugstore chain Ainz & Tulpe, Korean perfumery retailer Belport, Korean drugstore chain Olive Young or French parapharmacy chain Parashop.
This year we also published articles on interesting online retailers, like Vegane Pflege from Germany, UK salon booking company Wahanda (Wahanda also owns the Treatwell and Salonmeister sites) and men’s grooming store Mankind.
Other retailers, like US drugstore chains Ulta or CVS, I’ve never actually visited but still managed to write in-depth company profiles about them (thank you, Internet!).
The copyright to these articles belongs to HPCi Media/cosmeticsbusiness.com.
During my weekend in Helsinki I also visited Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. From Helsinki, Tallinn is just 2-3 hours by ferry and there are hourly connections so it is the perfect day trip. It was my first visit to Estonia and after walking around the beautiful Old Town for a bit, I started on my must-visit list of local retailers, including a Stockmann outlet, a couple of supermarket chains and, most importantly, a store specialising in organic beauty: Pillerkaar!
One of the retailers on my must-see list in Helsinki was organic supermarket chain Ruohonjuuri. Ruohonjuuri (the name translates as “grass roots”) is one of Finland’s organic food retail pioneers; their first store in Helsinki was opened in 1982. Today Ruohonjuuri has five stores in Helsinki and four outlets in other Finnish cities; they also operate an online store.
I had googled Ruohonjuuri prior to my trip and decided to visit their flagship store on Salomonkatu 5 in Helsinki’s Kamppii district: a very large and beautiful retail space, vis-à-vis from Kampii metro station. The store offers an extensive selection of fresh and dried organic foods, fruit and vegetables, frozen and chilled products and a spectacular organic beauty department, plus a treatment room where you can book a variety of face and beauty treatments.
A few months ago I researched and wrote a company profile on Swiss supermarket chain Coop for one of my magazine projects. In the end, we decided not to use the Coop piece; so here it is (updated and annotated!). Coop is an interesting retailer: like its competitor Migros, the company has very strong position in the Swiss food market – basically, there is Migros (market leader) and Coop and that’s pretty much it as far as supermarket chains are concerned. At least in German Switzerland.
During my article research I noticed how closely Coop’s brand line-up reflects current food trends: over the past few years, the company has added a number of organic, regional and vegetarian own label brands. And this June, Coop signed a distribution agreement with Berlin-based vegan supermarket chain Veganz. Another interesting project is Coop’s new market place Siroop.ch, the first online store in Switzerland to offer products from local, regional and international manufacturers on one retail platform. For more information on Siroop, scroll down the article!