On a short trip to Paris last weekend, naturally one of the ‘must see’ places on my list was Sephora’s flagship store on the Champs Elysees. Forget the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, the Louvre... Sephora was what got my heart beating faster!
I think Sephora is a clever mix between a department store and a chemist, combining a true beauty experience offering niche and premium beauty brands within an accessible format without overbearing assistants.
Sephora’s store concept excels at encouraging people to try out the products and experiment with them – there are ample testers (that aren’t completely ruined) and mirrors, plus cleansing lotion and wipes to remove the make up once you have tested it.
It still baffles me that any store that sells make up doesn’t provide these simple necessities for testing. On a recent visit to the Boots store at Piccadilly Circus, I couldn’t believe how ruined many of the testers were (even the ones on the Benefit counter, which had a dedicated assistant available – how she didn’t notice and replace the mangy testers is beyond me).
Other times, in other Boots stores, when I’ve wanted to test out a sample I’ve had to hunt for a unit that has a mirror available. And then when I have tested make up all over my hands, not having any cleansing wipes available to remove it puts me off trying out anything else.
Sephora’s mysterious UK departureLVMH-owned Sephora popped its head up in the UK market briefly between 1999 and 2005 before closing all 9 stores, and I have always wondered why the concept didn’t work in the UK.
I’ve been trawling the internet to try and find out why, and it seems there is very little to be said on the subject: in the articles I found, Sephora spokespeople refused to comment, and in forums many people commented on the fact that they never receive a response when they try to contact Sephora.
From what I could find, Propertyweek.com attributed its closure to soaring rental costs, while comments on forums suggest that the out-of-town store locations, a lack of new brands and a lack of attention to detail in-store let down their UK stores, so perhaps it wasn’t done in the right way the first time round.
Or perhaps it just wasn’t the right time and UK consumers weren’t ready for this style of beauty experience. The beauty market between 1999 and 2005 was quite different then and maybe now, with the surging interest in niche, innovative brands, the demand for an enhanced shopping experience and the consumer’s increasing knowledge of beauty products, Sephora could now succeed in the UK.
But shops or no shops, given the amount of love in the UK for Sephora, why on earth doesn’t its website deliver to the UK? In my opinion they are losing a huge amount of potential, very easy business.