For brands seeking to open a physical store, a street out of the main road and with no vehicle access would not normally be a choice of location. But To Summer, or more widely known as Guanxia in China (a niche Chinese fragrance brand), did just that by opening its first offline store in one of Shanghai’s hidden streets – Hunan Road.
The store named Xian Ting, or the Courtyard of Leisure, is built upon an aged villa with nearly a hundred years of history. While some might not think the western-styled building is compatible with a brand that is specialised in curating eastern fragrance, To Summer has managed to blend cultures and history adding to the location’s appeal.
By turning this old house into the brand’s first home, To Summer has smartly jumped on the guochao trend bandwagon, injecting the scent of the West into its oriental perfume, while strengthening the image of an ancient brand with a historical edge and a mysterious texture.
Adapting a historical building into a store has been commonplace among brands in China, with Prada’s Rong Zhai being another example. The 1918 residence, located in the heart of Shanghai, was inaugurated in October 2017 after six years’ restoration and has been functioning as the main venue for various cultural events organised by the Italian luxury house in China.
To Summer’s Xian Ting, however, is more like a living room for visitors to “enjoy life”, focusing on the experience within rather than a traditional storefront. This enhances the brand’s image as a home fragrance maker, with a cosy ambiance flavoured with its signature perfume, recreating a comfy home setting.
The store also preserved foliage in the backyard, adding a cue of nature, which is also a focus of the brand. Although it might not yet be a household name in the West, To Summer has been quickly growing in popularity in China, thanks partly to its original creations with eastern plants and herbs at the core of its ingredients. By taking the time to attune their store to their product and company vision, To Summer can create an experience when purchasing that matches the customers’ expectations.
Establishing its connection to nature has skilfully set the Chinese brand apart from international rivals, whose products include more chemical content. This has allowed the brand to win over Chinese consumers, who have shown an interest in products with natural ingredients out of the health and environmental value. Meanwhile, the eastern scent seems to have beat the western perfume due to its freshness, and such “niche” fragrances have been gaining steam among China’s young consumers.
In addition, for many brands in China moving fast is the rule of thumb, but for To Summer they seem to believe the opposite is the golden rule. Founded in 2018, it was only until a year after that the brand launched its first product, taking the time to understand the market and perfect its products.
Even since its beginnings, the brand never seems to be rushed to release newlines with the philosophy of being slow not only smartly differentiating them from the rest, but also enhancing an image of being serious about their product. It is widely believed by many that quality goods take time to produce and so by acting slower and dedicating more time they have aligned with the market.
All the above has shown why To Summer decided to locate its first store in a quiet street, with the location a good fit for the brand’s image. The “unusual” site will also add to the uniqueness of this rising Chinese brand, drawing curious eyes just like you and me.