A billion dollar industry – M&M’s concept store trend in China

More and more big international brands are reaching out to Chinese consumers to stimulate their shopping desires. According to the Wall Street Journal “Chocolate sales in China grew 58% from 2009-13, reaching more than 15.01 billion Yuan, or about $2.43 billion in 2013, according to market-research firm Euromonitor International. “

Not only many products are adapted to the local Chinese tastes but also culturally adapted “concept stores” are the trend in China. The stores aim to create a sensory experience for customers.

M&M‘s, the chocolate brand owned by Mars opened a concept store in Shanghai’s Brilliance Shimao International Plaza In 2014 August. According to the official press release: “Spanning two floors of colorful, chocolate fun, the store offers M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies in 22 colors and three varieties – Milk Chocolate, Peanut and Almond – and a wide range of M&M’S® merchandise, including apparel, kitchenware, plush and Shanghai- and China-themed M&M’S® branded products, such as mugs, tins and T-shirts, designed specifically for the Shanghai M&M’S World® store.”

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M&M’s concept store in Shanghai China: T-shirt merchandise display


The 1,600-square-meter M&M’s concept store has integrated iconic the Chinese landmarks such as the great wall to create the “Great Wall of Chocolate”- the world’s largest M&M’S® candy wall. Beside are Red and Orange M&M dressed as Warriors. People could choose their own customized blend of M&M’S Chocolate Candies from 132 individual tubes. The long bright “Great Wall of Chocolate” installation is cool to look at and fun to choose color from.

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M&M’s concept store in Shanghai China: “Great Wall of Chocolate”

Other Chinese cultural elements have been obviously represented in the store: a yellow M&M statue dressed as a panda; another dressed as terra cotta warriors; bamboos and lanterns were placed as decoration.

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M&M’s concept store in Shanghai China: Top- M&M dressed in panda; Left- dressed as warrior; Right- in Chinese dress


Beside the “Great Wall of Chocolate”, there are three colored platforms with hanging illuminated lanterns around. The platforms tried to engage people with a “mood” game: As soon as you step on the platform, it will dial the color wheel, then it lands on a color: red, yellow or green. At the same time, some of the hanging lanterns will lit in that particular color to match your mood. Unfortunately, the execution is done poorly. Depends on which of the three platforms you stand on, it only give you one designated color. The “red mood” platform is always showing red as the mood. It takes away the exciting result one could get from a random color pick.

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M&M’s concept store in Shanghai China: Interactive lantern platforms – screen choose “yellow mood” while some lanterns change to yellow


The overall experience of the M&M’s concept store is very boring for me. Integrated cultural adaptions alone will soon not be enough. The whole store pushes the M&M’S® merchandise with few real engaging experience. There are many designed M&M status for photo taking opportunities. However these kinds of interactions stay at primary level. If the brand wants to create “sensory experience”, this level will not be enough.

Some Chinese bloggers complained their chocolate price was very expensive. However,despite many big chocolate brand rivals, “Mars accounted for 39.6% of China’s chocolate sales last year, ahead of Italy’s Ferrero SpA, with 11.5%, and Hershey. with 11.1%, according to Euromonitor…”

In my opinion, this kind of concept store may work for the Chinese consumer for now. But very soon, demanding Chinese will ask for more interesting engaging experience, from online to offline. The retail stores will need to find better ways to tell their brand stories and creating memory experiences.

Further read on chocolate market in China

Chocolate Confectionery in China

To understand more about Chinese retail landscape, read the article by Doreen Wang, global head of BrandZ,

Retail in China: changing consumer priorities open doors for brands

See other posts:

How luxury brands tell their stories to Chinese consumers?

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