Friday, 19 November 2010

Beauty Shopping In The Netherlands: Departmental Stores


This is a long overdue continuation of the Beauty Shopping In The Netherlands series that I started a while back. I have already covered the drugstores, the parfumerie stores and the branded stores. It’s now the turn of the departmental stores. I will name three here, all home-grown stores which were at one point under the same (Dutch) owners (well, not anymore!).


1. HEMA
Pronounced hay-ma
Aah, our beloved HEMA. Find me a Dutch who has never heard of HEMA and I will show you a pig that can fly. HEMA began life in the grim period leading up to The Great Depression. Arthur Isaac and Leo Meyer, who were directors of de upmarket departmental store, de Bijenkorf, came up with the idea of starting a store targeted at the less privileged, just a store offering simple, ordinary products of high quality but at low prices. And so, with the support of the management team of de Bijenkorf, HEMA opened its doors to the man in the street in 1926. It was a price-point retailer, not unlike the dollar stores and the 100-yen stores of today. HEMA offered products at standard prices of 10, 25 and 50 cents, hence the name Hollandsche Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij Amsterdam (Dutch Standard Prices Company Amsterdam).

The standard pricing system has long been abandoned in line with changes in the economic climate but the core values of HEMA – making life easier and more pleasant by offering quality products at low prices – remain. What I find most interesting about HEMA is that right from Day One, all the products sold at HEMA are from its house-brand (in HEMA’s words: long before this term was invented, HEMA created and manufactured her own products). All its products are internally developed and they undergo stringent testing before making their debut on the store shelves.

Believe you me, they sell all kinds of merchandise. From sausages to undergarments, from bicycles to cooking pots, from baby socks to stationery, all in simple, utilitarian (but not necessarily ugly) packaging. Even plaster bandages (I had my doubts at first, but my gosh, they had them too!). Many HEMA stores also have a cafe where you can rest and relax with a cup of coffee.

Of course, HEMA also sells house-brand beauty and makeup products at budget-friendly prices. They’ve got their body scrubs, masks and lotions for your home-spa experience and they’ve got a whole range of eyeshadows, lipsticks and whatever else you would need to doll your face up. That includes about five different types of mascaras too and an eyeshadow base that has been enjoying rave reviews (I’ve yet to try that myself, but I’m tempted). Oh yes, HEMA sells nail polishes too!


There are now around 530 HEMA stores of various sizes, the majority of which are in the Netherlands, and the rest in Belgium, Luxemberg, Germany and France. I woudn’t advise turning your nose up at HEMA just because it is a budget-friendly store. It is a force to be reckoned with.

2. V&D
Pronounced vay-en-day
The name is short for Vroom & Dreesman (vrom & drays-man). This departmental store was started in 1887 by two successful businessmen in Amsterdam. You guessed it, Mr. (Willem) Vroom and Mr. (Anton) Dreesman who were brothers-in-law (they married two sisters). Their strategy was simple and unusual for that time: to offer merchandise at fixed low prices in exchange for cash payment. The store was a success and in the next eleven years, another six stores in other cities were opened.

Over the next century or so, more and more stores were opened all over the country but, unfortunately, there were also store closures. Today, there are 62 V&D stores in the Netherlands. V&D also runs a very successful chain of sister-restaurants called La Place.

Frankly, V&D is a store that I least get in terms of its identity. It’s.....all over the place. It tries to be hip and chic but oftentimes, it ends up seeming mediocre, like it’s been trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong. I do purchase things from V&D once in a while but I’m just not feeling what it represents. It's just confusing.

These days, V&D is big on the shop-in-shop formula which they introduced in 2007, with names like MANGO, Desigual and New Look. To their credit, their biggest score has got to be Sephora. As far as I know, there are Sephora stores in thirteen of the V&D outlets (but not in the V&D in Amsterdam).

Also to be found in some V&D stores, following the shop-in-shop formula: Rituals, ICI Paris XL and Sabon. The links will lead you to my previous articles on these stores.

3. de Bijenkorf
Pronounced de by-en-korof
Simon Philip Goudsmit started Magazijn de Bijenkorf in 1870. Back then, it was just a small haberdashery in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Mr Goudsmit passed away in 1889 and as his son was still a little boy of no older than three, his widow and his nephew, Arthur Isaac (that same man from HEMA above) took over the business.

In 1912, Mr. Isaac moved the business to another location in Amsterdam: De Dam. Here, business flourished and a decision was made to build a full-blown departmental store there. de Bijenkorf, the departmental store, opened for business in 1915. The building that you see in this photo below is the said Bijenkorf building.


The upmarket Bijenkorf is known for its pizzazz. It’s classy, stylish and strong in its branding. Its shop window displays are works of art and it often hosts cool literary and arts events. Every year in October, it holds a three-day sale that is a much anticipated event (well, technically, it’s four days – the final day is an ‘All Must Go’ day). A few years ago, de Bijenkorf introduced a similar sale in March that runs for a longer period.

De Bijenkorf has lots to offer in the beauty and makeup department. It’s got many of the cosmetic brands like Dior, YSL, Chanel, Guerlain, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, Clarins, MAC and Bobbi Brown, just to name a few.

Some points of interest:

• Products from Dutch brand Rituals Cosmetics are also available in de Bijenkorf.

• There is a Skins Cosmetics shop-in-shop in de Bijenkorf in Rotterdam. Skins Cosmetics is a sophisticated Dutch parfumerie store with an impressive offering of products from inter alia Creed, REN, ELLIS FAAS, Laura Mercier, Diptyque and Rodial.

• In de Bijenkorf in Amsterdam, you will find the flagship store of KOH Cosmetics. Some of you may remember my post from earlier this year about the KOH Experience Shop a.k.a. the Nail Polish Heaven. A few months after publication of that post, KOH moved the shop to a different location, but remaining on the second floor. I finally had the time to visit it recently and this is what it looks like now. More photos to come later.


There are a total of twelve Bijenkorf stores in the Netherlands.


The Beauty Shopping In The Netherlands series can be found here. More to follow in this series.

23 comments:

Naoko said...

I love your shopping in the Netherlands posts! I have to go there, specially to visit the Koh Experience shop :-) Writing about beauty shopping in Spain and the places I visit is something I have always wanted to do, but I haven't enough time! Well, excuses, I know :-) I'll do it one day, so that you can also discover why do you need to come to my country! By the way, I love the buildings, they are amazing! Thank you for these series. I've said that I love them already? :-D

Shop N' Chomp said...

What a great post...I love learning about different shopping destinations. XD

Anonymous said...

Great series!! I love it, very unique and informative. You did a wonderful job! Take care and looking forward to the next one. Nicole

Witoxicity said...

@Naoko
Hola, Naoko! It's always lovely to hear from you! I'm so pleased that you enjoy reading posts like these.

Oh, I think you should begin a series of your own for beauty shopping in Spain (but I understand, time is our greatest enemy!). I'd love to know more. Surely it's not confined to only El Corte Inglés! :D

@Shop N' Chomp
Thanks, my dear! It was a pleasure writing this article. :)

@Nicole
Thank you, Nicole, for your very supportive words. It's really good to know that there are ladies out there who appreciate wordy articles like these. You take care too, and have a great weekend! :D

Anonymous said...

Hi, next month I will be visiting relatives in Holland. I can't wait to go beauty shopping and I will visit the koh shop for sure. All the shops look wonderful. This post will certainly help me on my tour, thanks for sharing. Merci, Fe

Witoxicity said...

@Fe
Hi Fe! Thanks for dropping me a line. I'm glad this series would be of some help to you. It's very timely indeed! I'm sure you will enjoy your trip to Holland. Have fun with the shopping, but don't forget to check out Rembrandt and van Gogh paintings too! :D

Vonvon said...

Netherlands is a shopping haven too! I want to experience it some day. :)

Eli aka Negra Cabreada said...

I'm going to check my Amsterdam pics from 2008 because I swear there's a sight of one de Bijenkorf in one of the pics. Why, oh why, wasn't I so interested in cosmetics back then...?

Witoxicity said...

@Vonvon
Well, I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem for you now that you travel to this part of the world so often. :)

@Eli
Don't kick yourself, Eli. I think many of us had a different view about makeup (and nail polish!) a couple of years ago. Anyway, you did tell me back in February that you have relatives living in Holland. Ahem, I think it's time you paid them a visit! :D

gopretty said...

The salon in this post is really, really pretty. I want to go there!

Witoxicity said...

@gopretty
Yes, it is a lovely place! Well, now you know where you should go when you next find yourself in Amsterdam. :)

Mara (Itsura) said...

A big HELLO to KOH. If I get the chance to go to the Netherlands, this is my first stop.

Witoxicity said...

@Mara
Ha ha! You're indeed well-advised to check the shop out when you swing by here. :D

Eli aka Negra Cabreada said...

@ Witoxicity: Yeah, totally LoL The one that appears in my picture is in Dam Platz (or something like that)

Cynthia Z said...

WOW I wanna shop there! KOH looks AMAZING!!!

Hope to make it there in 10 years :). Weed in Amsterdam woohoo...Kidding! :D

♥xx♥

Witoxicity said...

@Eli
You must have been very close to de Bijenkorf then! :)

@Cynthia
Haha! Don't wait too long, OK? :D

The Diva's Polish said...

I'm very late with many of my comments. Apologies :( but I LOVE your shopping posts. I really would love to visit Amsterdam one day. de Bijenkorf is topping my shopping list. Looks absolutely magical to me! :)

Gail said...

Great series, I am so glad it's been revived! Loved the virtual tour, Thanks! xx

Witoxicity said...

@The Diva's Polish
No worries, my dear. It's really sweet of you to drop me a line. I'm very pleased that you enjoy reading such posts! De Bijenkorf may seem magical here but I'm sure you also have your magical stores in Australia. Myer, perhaps? :D

@Gail
Hello, Gail! It's so nice to see you here! I'm glad too to be doing this series again. It is an uncompleted project that had been hanging over my head for so long. There are just a couple more parts to this series and then, I'll be done! :)

Dina (XYYan) said...

Thanks for sharing this! It will be really helpful if we get to visit Netherlands one day :)

Witoxicity said...

@Dina
Yes, I'm sure that day will come. :)

Natalie Nguyen said...

Ooh, interesting read on HEMA indeed, after all it's nice to know a little about the company behind a couple of products you sent my way! =D

Witoxicity said...

@Natalie
Hi, Natalie! I'm glad you enjoyed that bit about HEMA. It does help to put things into perspective for you, doesn't it? :)