Sephora is stepping up their brand game
I wouldn’t normally make a whole post about a store carrying new brands (yawn) but I’m making an exception in this case. Earlier today I was puttering around the internet, as you do on Sundays. The image above was in my email, and it stopped me in my tracks. WHAT? I’ve been waiting for this day for years. I halfway thought I was dreaming, but I got a confirmation for the order I placed within about two minutes of seeing the email, so I guess this is really happening.
It got me thinking about some of the things that have been going on with Sephora lately (deep thoughts, I know). Despite the Epic Fail Rewards last week, I think they’re making a lot of positive changes. Last year they rolled out optional flash shipping – $10/year for two-day shipping with no minimum order? No-brainer if you order more than twice a year. Then they announced that they’re jumping into the subscription box game; not something I’m hugely interested in for myself, but I think a lot of people will really like it. Starting this month they’re releasing trios of Bite Beauty mirror/lip gloss/lipstick as 250-point perks, which I assume is a response to frequent, loud and not entirely unjustified complaints that their rewards program is sub-par.
The biggest thing I’ve been excited about, though, is the way they’ve been expanding their brand offerings. They’ve always had a good mix of mid-price lines like Smashbox, Tarte and Benefit and higher-end brands – YSL, Hourglass, Givenchy, etc. Over the past few months they’ve been upgrading their brands, it seems. Why? If I had to speculate, I’d say it’s partly because a pretty consistent refrain discontent – “Nordstrom has more brands and a better points program.” And they’re not wrong. I’ve always been a bit annoyed (first world problem incoming) about not having a one-stop shop for beauty. Tom Ford? Gotta order from Neiman Marcus or Saks (at least, that was true until Nordies starting carrying it a year or so ago). Burberry and Kevyn Aucoin? Nordstrom or one of the other department stores. Surratt? You’ll shop at Barneys or you won’t get it. My bet is that they’re doing one of two things (or maybe both).
Option 1 – Differentiating themselves from Ulta. For a long time I switched back and forth between the two, mainly depending on what part of town I was shopping in (there’s only one Sephora here but two Ultas). There was a lot of overlap between the brands they offered, and at the time I was mostly into Urban Decay/Smashbox so it didn’t really matter which store I bought it at. More than once I’ve seen Sephora forum members say (usually in response to a major customer service misstep) they might as well just shop at Ulta. With the new brands they’ve added, the two are not nearly as interchangeable as they used to be.
Option 2 – Luring in people who mostly shop at department stores. I’m not a fan of department store counters, personally – since each SA works for a particular brand and works on commission, I don’t really feel they’re putting the customer’s needs first. But when you’re shopping for something you can’t get anywhere else, it’s kind of a necessary evil. Even if you’re buying online, sometimes that means making multiple orders, and it’s only fairly recently that the big department stores have started doing free shipping. If I can make one order (thus limiting the risk of packages getting delivered to my next-door neighbors) I’m all for that. Not to mention Sephora’s annual 15% and 20% off sales – similar sales at department stores almost never include beauty.
I can’t even list all the new brands Sephora has started offering lately, but there are a lot. Sunday Riley is fairly new to them, and a few small/indie/overseas brands too – Besame, Chosungah 22, Lashfood. Here are the ones I’ve been most excited about:
Hakuho-do + Sephora Pro
Even though I probably won’t be buying any of these, delving into Japanese brushes is a huge step forward. I have dreams (probably pipe dreams, but still) that this will lead to Sephora being a retailer for the permanent Hakuhodo line. It doesn’t seem likely, but some of the other things they’ve added were totally unexpected for me too.
I could be wrong but I think Sephora used to carry Kevyn Aucoin, then didn’t, and now they do again. I haven’t actually tried a ton of products from their line, but the Sensual Skin Enhancer has pretty much un-rivaled coverage and the Sculpting Powder is one of very few realistic contour colors I’ve ever seen.
Surratt launched a couple years ago at Barneys, and until recently that’s the only place you could get it. I’ve never really loved online shopping at Barneys – their website layout is sort of irritating and shipping is slow. The Surratt blush in Grisaille is my favorite contour powder of all time, and the Smoky Eye Batons are incredible too. I’m looking forward to occasionally slipping an eyeshadow in with my orders! It’s also worth noting the Surratt brushes are the only full range of natural hair brushes Sephora carries (they’re also by far the most expensive, though).
Duh, only the whole thing that inspired this post. Almost without exception, I’ve loved everything I’ve tried from the brand. The Luminous Foundation didn’t work for my skin type at the time and the Effortless mascara was a bit average, but the eyeshadows, blushes, lipsticks and nail polish are the definition of awesome. Go to the dictionary and look it up. I’m pretty certain the brand won’t show up in my local store (we don’t have Guerlain, Surratt or Armani, either) but I can still dream.
Now if Sephora would just carry Tom Ford and Rouge Bunny Rouge, they’d have all my makeup budget for life. Are you excited about the new brands, or are there other ones you’d rather see?