Sephora Australia Review

January 19 2015

You don’t forget your first time quickly. The black and white neon glow. The neat lines of perfection, stacked up in rows. All of a sudden being face to face with things you’ve read about… dreamed about… but never seen or touched in real life. Everything is shining, sparkling even. Time stops. You want everything. And then you see the price. Good lord! You might even be able to afford everything! And then it gets better! You pick up a sample pack of 12 different perfumes for $50 and think fantastic! THEN you discover it also contains a voucher for a full size bottle of the scent you like the most! What!? That’s cheaper than just buying a bottle! It’s all your fragrance dreams come true! You go to the counter, weaving your way through rows of iconic beauty-on-the-go products – perfect to try for $10 or less. You make your purchase and they fill your bag with samples, sign you up to the loyalty program where you instantly start getting rewards of your own chosing. They smile from behind glossy red lips and you go a little weak at the knees because you realise you’re in beauty heaven and you never want to leave.

The motherland: Sephora 5th Avenue New York

The motherland: Sephora 5th Avenue, New York

This is the amazement that is Sephora USA. 

It ruins you forever. Try picking up a Clinque Chubby Stick in Myer without thinking about how it’s two and a half times the price of one in Sephora USA. Not to mention the variety! There are so many brands we’ve never seen down under, it’s like an exclusive club for beauty mavens of the Northern Hemisphere.

And just when you’ve cried yourself to sleep for the thousandth time for being so far from the new release Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette…

Sephora announces it’s coming to Australia!

Australian beauty babes everywhere get giddy with excitement. Then, closer to opening, Sephora goes one step further and announces they are going to MATCH US PRICES on new brands they introduce. Says Ravi Thakran (the Asia and Middle East president for global luxury goods group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which owns Sephora) on December 5, the day Sephora opens in Sydney “That’s a big promise and we will certainly keep that”. Excitement reaches breaking point, the news takes over social media feeds.

Ravi goes on to acknowledge the deep hurts so many of us have been feeling down under.”Many brands have done a disservice and many retail players have also done a disservice to the retail consumer. I believe the Australian consumer does deserve to be treated exactly the same [as US consumers].” Ravi is our Messiah!

Sephora opens its doors to the die hard crazies in the line (wish I could have been there). These are their ready made set of loyal customers; the people who have heard of or experienced the Sephora USA dream and followed alllll the Sephora opening news and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the US price promise!

Sephora Australia Review: Opening Day Sydney

Sephora Australia Review: Opening Day Sydney

Then Sephora doesn’t deliver.

The prices on new products are not all comparable to US prices. They are more, in some cases up to 6o% more. And I (kind of) get it. The tax, the exchange rate, the shipping, the storage – all this must be factored in. But there’s also the falling dollar, creating an added pressure for Sephora – do they pitch their prices against US now? Or pick a price they can maintain? Plus, there’s the crazy Pitt St Mall rent, estimated to be 3.8 million dollars per year. What’s more, experts estimate Sephora needs to sell $40 million of product this year to make a profit. That’s roughly the amount Sephora’s neighbour, David Jones, makes in it’s cosmetic department… but DJs has a bunch more brands and double the floor space.

What surprises me is that they made the price promise in the first place; they would have known they were going to break the promise before they opened, and they should have known bloggers, media and customers would be talking about whether they delivered or not.

Sephora Australia Review

Sephora Australia Review: Sydney Morning Herald surveys the Sephora customers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in late December that Sephora were ‘in damage control over broken Australian price promise’ and reportedly meeting with their public relations agency to figure out where to from here. At the time of publishing this post, Sephora are yet to respond.

So is it all bad news? 

It’s not, sublime seekers. And Sephora’s customers are not exclusively disappointed. In fact they’re kind of divided as you can see from their reviews on the Sephora Australia facebook page:

Sephora Australia Review

Sephora Australia Review: Sephora customers vote on Facebook.

Amongst those 1 star reviews are complaints on price and range; the things you’d expect from people who’d experienced the US wonderment and were disappointed to find our Australian version isn’t the same experience. Amongst the 5 star reviews are people thrilled to have new brand options, a sparkly, spangly sample-filled store devoted to beauty! Perhaps people yet to experience the US version.

In fairness, Sephora has brought a spate of new product lines to Australia which while possibly not in line with US pricing, are competitively priced against similar-quality cosmetics you can buy here. Most notably: Kat Von D, Tarte!, Marc Jacobs beauty, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Givenchy, Becca and Sephora’s own extensive collection to skincare and beauty.

Sephora Collection Sydney

Sephora’s own range of cosmetics in it’s Sydney store as captured on Instagram by @messydownunder.

Where are all the other brands? 

Sephora staff explained that licensing issues plus existing contracts in Australia have meant its been really difficult for Sephora to bring their full complement of US stock to Australia. But! Sephora is promising to introduce one new brand per month, which is pretty dang exciting.

What’s the in-store experience like?  

Sephora Sydney is two levels; with makeup, fragrance and nail polish downstairs and skincare, haircare and mancare (mens products) upstairs. There is a really small counter hidden at the back of the store downstairs, but the main counters are upstairs.

It’s not quite as big as I thought it would be and when I was there last weekend it was fairly depleted in stock – a number of things I was interested in (roller ball perfumes in particular) had sold out. There were plenty of staff around being super helpful. I didn’t make a purchase, but word is purchases are coming with samples just as they do overseas, though gals who shopped up big OS will be disappointed to learn the VIB (yes B, for beauty) program does not transfer. Yo’ need to start yo’ status building again.

There are offers to be had though, I did spy on facebook this offer on Jan 13 (undoubtedly al gone by now!)

Sephora Gift With Purchase

Exclusive deals in-store!

The thing I’d recommend the most though, is having your makeup done in store. The prices are cheap to start with, and completely redeemable on product (a common yet regularly forgotten beauty offering, as we discussed in this post). It requires booking ahead, but it’s a great way to try out and learn about some of the new brands Sephora has to offer, before you buy!

Sephora Sydney In Store Beauty Services

Sephora Australia Review: great value in-store makeup offerings!

What exclusive products should I buy? 

We’ve picked five fab products you want now and won’t find elsewhere in Aus!

Kat Von D Studded Kiss

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick – super bright and bold shades that stay well in a gorgeous tube you want to pull out of your handbag. $31.

It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye

IT Cosmetics claim to have developed their range with leading plastic surgeons and have had big press on their Bye Bye Under Eye Cream. Hailed as fabulous for it’s super-pigmented coverage and anti-aging ingredients, I haven’t tried this one but I’m itching to. $38.

Daisy Rollerball

The perfume rollerballs were mostly sold out when I visited Sephora, but if you can get your hands on a scent you love, they’re PERFECT for handbag sized lady scenting! Expect to pay $20-$35 for your scent.

Tattoo Liner

Another from Kat Von D’s range, the Tattoo Liner is fast becoming a cult product. I’m going to do a separate post on this one too but suffice to say its a Sublime Find and I freakin’ love it. $28.

Marc Jacobs Twinkle Pop

The Marc Jacobs range has SO much to offer, their ‘highliner’ (eyeliner) and Nail Lacquer are getting a lot of heat, but I loved these ‘Twinkle Pop’ eye shadow sticks! Creamy and pigmented, Marc said he wanted eyes that ‘pop’. Love it. $42.

So what’s the verdict? 

Whichever way you cut it, the arrival of Sephora is great for Aussie beauty consumers. Myer and DJs (who currently have 60% of the market) are forced to ‘right-size’ their pricing and lift their game to remain competitive. And they have been – introducing more in-store beauty offerings like eyebrow bars, nail bars and exclusive offers. Plus – Sephora brings with it a bunch of brands that we’ve been previously forced to freight forward to our shores.

For these reasons, I intend to support Sephora when I can. Sephora isn’t too big to fail – the chain opened 9 stores in the UK between 1999 and 2005, before shutting all of them in a complete retreat from the market. A retreat here would be a backwards step for Australian beauty.

So hopefully onwards an upwards: Sephora plans to open 20 shopfronts in Australia and an online store is in the pipeline (though not soon). Fingers crossed they survive and go from strength to strength to become the beauty messiah we’re looking for.

That’s my thoughts… I’m itching to hear yours!

Are you excited about Sephora’s arrival? If you’ve already visited, what did you think? If not, will you be shopping there? What products are you itching to try? Or are you too p*ssed they broke their price promise? I have so many questions and can’t wait to hear your thoughts – you can leave them in a comment below! x


  • I’ve never been to a Sephora before and I’m in Brisbane so I really enjoyed this post! I think I will make the effort to visit the store next time I am in Sydney just to experience the vast range and service that you have described – plus I am now totally lusting after that Kat Von D lipstick, what a fabulous shade! Xo

  • Carmen says:

    Fabulous post. i was excited in the lead up to the opening. But not enough to go spend a day in a line 🙂 I’ll make my way there in the next few months, Things i want to look at most are the kat von D products, and sephoras own range. But to be able to actually look at touch and swatch these products is a big plus, it’s just a shame about the lack price-matching, but i wasn’t really expecting them to anyway. It’s not really feasible. Though i think if they got the online store up and running sooner rather than later, they could make a lot more money on the australian market.

    • I agree Carmen, I think an online store could be a huge win for them! Particularly when it eliminates the crazy rent issue. Definitely worth checking out in the flesh in the mean time! x

  • Jordanne says:

    OMG i am going to have to go on a holiday to Sydney i think. I hope that in the near future Sephora decides to open a store either in Brisbane or here on the beautiful Gold Coast

  • “And just when you’ve cried yourself to sleep for the thousandth time for being so far from the new release Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette…”

    There’s a 3? I am so out of touch since moving back to Australia from London… luckily 1 & 2 are still getting well used!

    I have mixed feelings about the whole “yes but taxes/exchange rate/shipping” etc… and the rent thing – well – Pitt St must at least be comparable to let’s say, the Times Square Sephora store in NYC? I think I’m going to hold out and see what they do next before banging the gavel with my final thoughts!

    Though for sheer accessibility to some of the brands not previously available on Australia – for that – I am grateful!

    • Urban Decay 3 is full of rose tinted shades! Less chocolatey than 2! I agree, I think it will be so interesting to see what happens next – it’s very watch this space! And agree agree, yay for more brands! We’re so spoilt for choice these days! x

  • Ness Vickery says:

    Thanks for such a great post. I have been looking forward to Sephora coming here for ages now. I was really hoping that Urban Decay would be one of the brands available here. Hopefully, they will be later on.

  • AF says:

    I recently visited Sephora (Sydney. Australia) and I never ever had such a poor experience in a cosmetic shop…I will never buy anything from Sephora here in Australia! Most goods are overpriced; the service was not poor. I purchased three 50g face creams of Lancôme (Genifique) and asked if they have any samples as it is a norm to get something when you make a purchase overseas. In Paris, for example, I got about a dozen of different samples!!! In Sydney they asked me what I was after and what in particular I wanted to try and then they will consider if they will be able to give some samples. I explained that I wanted to try: Youth Day Crème, Spot Eraser and Advanced Time Zone Wrinkle creams if possible. Then….a Sephora representative took three small empty plastic boxes (probably about 5g) and put some cream for me OUT OF OPEN BOXES on the shelves!!!!!!!
    I was just shocked; they even do not have proper new packed samples to give away!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *