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John Ryan

Is ‘Wellness’ Here to Stay?

Customers get an unusual experience at Rituals’ Antwerp store

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WHAT DOES “WELLNESS” mean? Depending on the retailer you visit, it could encompass anything from a few lotions and potions with no proven medical efficacy, to reclining in a pod while images and sounds pass before your eyes and ears as you head for an advanced state of relaxation.

The latter can be found in a newly installed semi-discrete shop-in-shop in Dutch brand and retailer Rituals’ Antwerp flagship with the claim that it represents a soothing break from the frantic hustle and bustle of the Flemish metropolis’ downtown area. Maybe so and given the curious combination of something that looks as if it might have come from the Starship Enterprise alongside an ethos that commends simplicity and quiet, this one at least has the merit of being different.

It also marks a distinct shift from the smelly candles, hot pebbles and perhaps a few crystals that are frequently associated with wellness. But will it all last and is there anything that can be considered for the long(er) term?

The answer may well be not, but this is not because wellness will be exposed as some kind of a yoga/pilates-driven fad. Instead (and here it is like the pseudo-scientific end of beauty retail) it will be because this is a sector that is evolving – there is still little clarity about the direction of travel, until the next thing comes along.

Wellness, in fact, sits very comfortably alongside beauty, so if it’s rejuvenating cream and colored water that you want, then this may be an answer. Equally, at a moment when it’s quite hard to move in a mall or on a high street without encountering some kind of beauty proposition, there are those who may predict that we are close to the top of the wellness curve, but this doesn’t seem very likely.

Affordable treats with a veneer of holistic medicine are central to wellness and our shopping districts have some way to go before any kind of satiety is reached, as least as far as store numbers are concerned. Meanwhile, if you really do crave a sound and vision pod and can make it over to Europe, the massive Rituals in Amsterdam also offers the same Antwerp experience – certainly nice to visit.

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