Miniso is a Japanese fast fashion brand with a recently opened outlet in the Kandy City Center. The store sells an insane range of products, all featuring a minimalist aesthetic usually associated with upmarket clientele at mass market prices. Does this indicate a coming democratization of elite aestheticism in Sri Lanka? I guess we’ll find out. The store was crowded as we went in on a Saturday afternoon, and there was a Japanese voice on the intercom, in heavily accented English, warning shoppers to “look after your valuables and children” as they were experiencing an “upsurge of customers”. Go figure.
The interior is a mix of Japanese minimalism; with lots of white spaces, minimal branding and items in cool pastel shades, and the clutter usually found in Sri Lankan miscellaneous ‘gift shops’. The clutter could be because of Miniso trying to squeeze in as many products as possible within the limited space of a standard KCC glass fronted business space. It could also have given that impression because of all the people crowding the narrow spaces between the numerous aisles. Apparently a new store is opening in Colombo which will be larger, it will have space for more things like clothes and food items.
Aside from toothbrushes, the other things packed within close quarters included all sorts of make-up, cosmetics and perfumes. We bought a bottle of “Aquarious Natural Spray” for Rs. 380 that gave off a rather pleasant, aquatic, fruity odor vaguely reminiscent of Davidoff Cool Water.
There is a whole section of toys and games to choose from (priced between Rs. 380-750). A “Three Dimensional Rhinoceros Puzzle” (Rs. 380) took some effort to figure out, but when it was finished it walked very cutely across the table after being wound up.
You can also buy flip flops (Rs. 750-2,000), water bottles with options to insert infusions (Rs. 750-1,890), socks, underwear, bags, all sorts of storage containers and purses. Stainless steel cutlery sells from Rs. 590 for a fork, they do bend if too much pressure is applied though, so don’t use them for bad days when your beef curry is a little undercooked (assuming you eat beef curry with a fork, or beef curry at all).
Being a bit of a stationery buff, I spent more time browsing the notebooks and pens on sale. The notebooks look quite ‘hip’ and come in either 80g or 100g paper, so nothing for you if you’re into water-coloring, but the design is very decent for writing and sketching, and for looking cool in a coffee shop. The build quality is nothing like a Moleskine though, so don’t expect these to take a beating. There is a humongous range of pens, sharpies and markers, you can buy three for Rs. 380. The gel pens seemed quite decent, and easily a good, cheap substitute if you’re into Pilots G5s or that kind of thing for writing.
Pretty much everything is cheaply made. Small print on the packaging says “designed in Japan, made in China”. So don’t expect these products to last a lifetime. But they all come very nicely packaged and look like they should have cost more than they actually do. Which means they’d be great ideas for gifts, unless word gets around faster than you do. This is not to say you’re not getting your money’s worth, I’d say based on what’s available in the market right now, the products at Miniso pack quite a punch in terms of bang for buck.
Shop attendants are quite friendly and some of them are very informed about the things for sale. And very honest as well. We asked one of them about a small handheld steamer for sale (Rs. 1,890) and he basically told us to not expect it to last more than 2 years tops, but also gave us a breakdown of what a steaming will cost in a saloon to prove that you’ll end up saving far more than you spend.
Miniso also seems to emphasize a lot on service and training, and there were a few Japanese staff members on hand to ensure that this fledgling outlet (it opened just a month ago) kicked off well.
Miniso sells a massive range of really useful things, some of which you never thought you’d need until you see them, at amazingly low prices. While quality might be questionable in some cases, it is far higher than what you would expect for similarly priced products in the market. I think you should definitely go check the place out.