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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!)
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!
What exclusive products should I buy?
We’ve picked five fab products you want now and won’t find elsewhere in Aus!
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