Alpha Group is a Kiwi manufacturer of health supplements and related products. Founded in 1998 by Chinese immigrant Professor Yi Huai Gao, the company entered China very early in its growth with a direct-to-consumer strategy and now has more than 1000 stores there. It sells into more than 20 countries worldwide.
James Yang, New Zealand sales manager for Alpha Group, says the company was keen to build brand recognition in New Zealand with its first Kiwi flagship. He says Alpha Group has such high brand recognition with Chinese customers that tourists had begun to seek it out while they visited New Zealand, but its existing “very tiny little store” on Dominion Rd did not live up to their expectations.
More than 400,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit New Zealand in 2017, Yang says.
The new flagship’s location at 2D Queen St, facing Quay St, is ideal for both domestic and international tourist trade. It captures visitors from the trains at Britomart, the ferries, and also cruise ships docking nearby.
Work on the site began in March, carried out by New Zealand-owned business interiors company Stack. Stack was established in 1998, and has specialised in commercial interior design for almost 20 years. It has successfully created inspiring, functional workplaces for both Kiwi and international companies, including retailers like Adidas.
David Maurice, associate – client services, says Stack can handle business interior fit-outs for anything from a four-person company to large organisations of hundreds.
“Every brief is different, and every design outcome uniquely tailored to different needs,” he says. “Yet each one is delivered on time and budget, every time.”
The Alpha Group store was launched with a soft opening on August 1, and a grand opening on September 26.
Yang says Stack was given a set of concepts linked to Alpha Group’s identity and history with the brief. These have been subtly incorporated into the store’s fit-out – for example, the main display table and ottoman are shaped like mushrooms in a nod to Professor Gao’s specialisation in fungi.
Alpha Group’s first line of products was inspired by traditional Chinese medicine. In the new flagship store, displays of herbs and fungi in glass apothecary-style containers reference this connection, as well as strengthening the emphasis on natural materials.
Natural pine is the main element inside the store – it appears on the walls, the floor, as honeycomb-shaped display cases and as display tables. There’s even molecule-shaped wooden sculptures hanging from the ceiling, referencing Alpha Group’s biotechnology arm. Artificial plants and lush photography of the New Zealand bush introduce green accents.
“The whole concept of the store is based on a natural health kind of feeling,” Yang says. “We’ve tried to create a natural environment.”
The stylish and eye-catching fit-out reinforces the premium quality of Alpha Group’s products, Yang says. With its prime placement and extensive frontage, it works hard to draw passers-by in off the street: “The location is great and we have this fantastic fit-out that draws all the attention.”
Alpha Group continues to grow fast, and is now finalising a skincare range due to hit the market in November. It plans to increase its range from 50 SKUs to 100 by the end of 2016.
Yang says the group intends to open further stores in New Zealand and is considering locations within Auckland International Airport or near Kiwi tourist attractions.
Stack associate design manager David Plaistowe headed up the design team which handled Alpha Group’s new flagship. He says the store had a unique character from the start, with its high ceilings and views of the harbour.
“Obviously the location was very important to Alpha Group, being part of Queen St and its proximity to the waterfront.”
The integration of Alpha Group’s chosen themes of traditional Chinese medicine; empowering healthy lives and being close to nature into an interior design language was a welcome challenge to his design team, Plaistowe says: “[The question was], how do we take that into a 3d design component and a functional component without being clichéd?”
As well as being eye-catching and natural, Plaistowe says the fit-out had to communicate the brand’s Kiwi origins, and be appealing to Alpha Group’s existing customers, who are from the wealthier end of the spectrum.
This has been achieved through the use of quality finishes and bold design choices.
The extensive use of wood provides a warmth and tactility to the fit-out, Plaistowe says. The wooden accents on the walls have been used to encompass functional elements such as the displays, with their wide curvatures giving the store a sculptural look.
Plaistowe attributes the smooth process of Alpha Group’s fit-out to the relationship between Stack and its client: “It’s been a very successful store from start to finish.”