It was 2009 when I headed to Taipei for a holiday with my sis alone, 2 of us, without the distraction of family or friends. I had started to get interested in makeup by that time and Taipei was an excellent choice to go beauty shopping! To add to the fuel, I had discovered PJ's blog and more importantly, the beauty city guide on Taipei.
In a way, this blog post is a tribute to PJ's original post, the one which sparked it all off. Thanks, PJ!
I've decided to deviate from PJ's post format a little as I will be touching on some websites based in that country and how you can receive items as a tourist (as opposed to having a residential/ business address in the country).
Beauty shopping country: Taiwan
Cities/areas of reference: Taipei (mostly), Yilan, Hualien
Departmental stores in Taipei with extensive beauty departments:
1) Sogo Zhongxiao (closest mrt station: Zhongxiao Fuxing)
2) Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi (closest mrt station: Taipei City Hall). Do take note that Mitsukoshi Xinyi is split between 4 buildings (yes, 4 7-storey buildings!). Not all beauty brands are in each building, so please check the store directory before alighting from a taxi or starting to shop. But the buildings are linked together via sheltered walkways, so it is still fairly easy to get to the right building if you're looking for a particular brand in another building.
3) Shin Kong Mitsukoshi (closest mrt station: Taipei Main Station). This is in fact the original downtown Mitsukoshi (the Xinyi one is newer). If you're staying in the Ximending area or have decided not to venture to the Xinyi area for any reasons, you might want to check out this Mitsukoshi instead.
Drugstore chains in Taiwan (equivalent to USA's Walgreens/CVS and UK's Superdrug/Boots)
1) Watsons. This is, in fact, owned by a HK conglomerate and you will see Watsons stores everywhere in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and HK. In my Taipei post trip blog entry, I found a 24-hr Watsons in the Zhongxiao Dunhua area, which is excellent for time squeezed travellers.
Updated 4 April 2013: Looking through my Watsons Taiwan receipts and thinking back, Watsons must be the king of pricing in drugstores in Taiwan.
One particular visit had the following price promotions:
a) Buy minimum of NTD588 on drugstore makeup and get NTD100 off the bill immediately (strangely, the definition of drugstore makeup was brands like ZA, Majolica Majorica, Integrate, KATE, 1028 Cosmetics but did not apply to brands like Solone)
b) Buy 1 piece for selected makeup/ skincare products, get the 2nd piece at 38% off (I tried buying a skincare lotion and getting the skincare essence at 38% off but no go. Only the moisturiser, essence and night cream from that particular skincare line were on 38% off the 2nd piece. You really needed to see the fine print to figure out the promotion applied for which products)
c) If total spend in store exceeds NTD2000, receive NTD200 in Watsons store vouchers (to be used another day).
This includes promotions (a) and (b), so you could buy toothpaste/shampoos etc to make up the balance. Their inhouse sales system must be very advanced to be able to keep track of all these promotions and reflect them properly on the bill.
2) Sasa (actually a HK company. They have made serious inroads into Taiwan in the past 2 years).
4) Mirada. But most Mandarin-speakers in Taiwan will know them by "Mei Hua Tai" (Not technically a drugstore, and they only have stores in the Taipei area). But by golly, what stores they are!
They may be drugstore in appearances but some of the brands stocked at the stores can be as pricey as the ones in departmental stores. In fact, some of the bigger Watsons stores I have been have a 'store-in-store' concept where the same departmental brand have a sales rep there to serve you.
Websites (multi-label/brand cosmetics)
1) www.payeasy.com.tw. Ships products locally (Taiwan) within 5-7 working days if they have stock(but personal experience says better to allocate more time for their delivery). They can deliver products to a convenience store of your choice (if you decide not to give them your hotel/accommodation address). You do not need Taiwanese identification (ID) to buy from this site. Non-taiwanese credit cards are accepted. Also ships selected product lines at different pricing internationally.
2) www.jpmon.com. Ships products locally within 3 working days if they have stock. Like payeasy, they can deliver products to a convenience store of your choice. You do not need Taiwanese ID to buy from this site. Non-taiwanese credit cards are accepted. Also ships internationally.
3) Yahoo Taiwan shopping. Various sellers, various sellers' ratings. Typically the major sellers will deliver products to a convenience store but at an added delivery fee. You do not need Taiwanese ID to buy from this site.
* special mention: www.naruko.com.tw. This is by Robin Niu, possibly the most famous skincare guru in Taiwan. He is known in the media and by fans as "牛尔老师" or Teacher Niu Er.This web-shop holds all his skincare lines; ampm, Naruko and NRK. Ships products locally within 4 working days if they have stock (but their website says longer). They can deliver products to a convenience store of your choice. You do not need Taiwanese ID to buy from this site. It is far easier to buy his products online than to buy from Watsons (it's exclusive to Watsons). I went to several stores in Hualien, Yilan and Taipei but did not manage to find the full range of his products anywhere. In the end, I gave up and ordered online.
I have not included some web-shops as you need to have a Taiwanese identification number as part of the registration and verification process. As travellers, it could be difficult to order items online knowing that you will not know your room number at the hotel before checking into the hotel.
The Taiwanese online shopping experience takes this uncertainty away! I have picked up items from the convenience stores before and typically, the items are either stored behind the cashier or in a locked cupboard with the key only held by the staff. The staff would also typically ask you for your full name and contact number as a cross-check before releasing the products. I have found online shopping to be a joy in Taiwan and a boon for time-scarce travellers!
If you have any questions, do let me know and I will try my best to answer them.