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Aesop Opens First Mainland China Store in Downtown Shanghai

The two-story, 3,230-square-foot space touts a homey ambience with locally sourced materials that "pay homage to Chinese craftsmanship."

SHANGHAI — For its first brick-and-mortar retail store in mainland China, Aesop picked a leafy serpentine street called Dongping Road in the former French Concession of downtown Shanghai.

Aesop’s in-house design team spent almost a year fine-tuning the store. The two-story, 3,230-square-foot space touts a homey ambience with locally sourced materials that “pays homage to Chinese craftsmanship,” according to the brand.

Sleek basins that take center stage at the store are made with Guizhou travertine stone, which local artisans sculpted. A ceiling cushioned by a wheat-straw installation handwoven by Chinese artist Didi Wu evokes local handicraft traditions still utilized in the Shanghai region. Vintage French furniture and light fixtures that furnish the store add to its discreet appeal.

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Sleek basins take center stage at the Aesop Dongping Road store.

A group of private sinks is separated from the main merchandising area via a sand-molded glass screen. Here, guests can receive customized treatments while admiring a garden planted with Chinese medicine herbs.

A group of private sinks overlooks a secret garden planted with Chinese medicine herbs at the Aesop Dongping Road store.

A fragrance chamber called the Sensorium, introduced in the Aesop Pitt Street store in Sydney, takes up a quiet corner of the first floor.

Fully covered in soft green tiles, the intimate area offers the brand’s full range of gender-neutral fragrances. The scents are displayed in a cabinet called Fragrance Armoire that features Shanghainese Art Nouveau stained glass doors.

A fragrance chamber called the Sensorium at the Aesop Dongping Road store.

The second floor is a “resting and workshop” area reserved for Aesop employees.

Aesop is the first global brand to open in the area. A designated “lifestyle” district of the Hengfu Historic District, it is one of the city’s oldest streets that the local government started revamping in 2018.

A Lululemon store, set to open next month, the fashion boutique LMDS and a French bistro complete the neighborhood.

The Australian luxury beauty and wellness brand entered the mainland China market in 2018 via Tmall Global. The online shop has amassed more than 720,000 followers over the years. According to local data platform Data1688, Aesop’s sales reached 65 million renminbi, or $9 million, on the e-commerce platform in the first 10 months of the year.

Bestsellers, including the Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser and Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, sold more than 4,000 units last month.

The removal of animal testing requirements for imported “general cosmetics” products in 2021, which still excludes hair dye and sunscreen products, made it possible for cruelty-free brands like Aesop to finally open a store in mainland China.

A second Aesop mainland China store is set to open next month at the Xintiandi shopping mall in Shanghai.

Aesop operates more than 200 stand-alone stores and 80 counters worldwide.

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Guilherme Castellan, Aesop parent company Natura & Co.‘s chief financial officer, said during the group’s third-quarter earnings call in August that the company has plans to further expand Aesop’s retail presence in “urban centers” across the China market in 2023. The brand will also open a domestic Tmall store to ensure speedy delivery.

In October, Natura & Co. said it is looking into options to accelerate Aesop’s growth, including a possible initial public offering in the U.S or a spin-off of the Aesop brand.

Net sales for the Aesop brand grew 21.5 percent year-over-year to $26 billion in the first three quarters of 2022. According to Castellan, Asia is currently Aesop’s largest market, delivering double-digit growth in the third quarter.