A few years ago my then boyfriend, now husband and I took our first overseas trip to visit America. To hear his version of the story we spend the entire trip in Sephora. Granted we did visited pretty regularly as I had a small budget and wanted to test lots of stuff before committing. Years earlier as a 16 year old I remember visiting Paris for the first time and ‘discovering’ the make up mecca on Champs Elysee. I was transfixed, in loved and overwhelmed all at once.
So, you can imagine my excitement when Sephora announced they were finally coming to Australia. The fact that the store was based in Sydney only presented a mild challenge. As luck would have it I was sent to Sydney by work for a meeting in early January just over a month after the doors first opened. Score!
The trill of seeing the famous white and black Sephora design in my home country was exhilarating*. The store was spread over two floors with make up and fragrances on the ground level and the second floor had skin and haircare products. I’d secretly told myself that money was no issue, after all most of the brands were exclusive to Sephora and they had also promised to match American prices. For those of you not in the loop, Australians pay approximately a zillion extra dollars for identical products compared to America and the rest of the world. This harks back to preinternet days when companies could get away with over charging based on extra shipping etc.
As I walked around the enchanting display of makeup I realised that actually these prices were far higher than what I had anticipated (especially as I had visited Sephora in Hawaii in September a mere 4 months earlier). Even taking into account exchange rates, higher rents and wages Sephora were clearly not sticking to their word.
In the end I only purchased two items, something for a friend and Tarte Cosmetics Cheek Stain which I believe cost $43 – A mark up of over 20% after factoring in exchange rates etc. The other thing I noticed was that there were no samples given at the checkout. Perhaps they had run out of samples, but no apology was offered either when I commented on it to the sales assistant.
Overall I felt hugely let down by Sephora, I think their Sydney stores just doesn’t match their overseas stores. The stock they had was okay but baring a few brands there wasn’t a great amount that I couldn’t purchase elsewhere. Additionally I didn’t see any Sephora exclusive items which are usually a big drawcard for me when I visit their stores overseas. The lack of samples really shocked me as in America you usually leave with a few thrown in for good measure without even needing to ask. Also their main competitor Mecca Cosmectica has started to give away pretty decent sized samples when you make purchases and introduced a good reward program. In addition the debacle with pricing was weird. It’s one thing to overcharge on cosmetic prices because that is the establish system in Australia, but then don’t release an official announcement saying you won’t be.
Overall I’m going to keep shopping at Mecca Cosmetica for now and I’ll buy items I can’t get there online. If Sephora starts treating it’s Australian customers as well as it treats it’s American ones I’ll be first to convert as I know they usually have great customer service.
Have you been? I’d love to hear other peoples experiences
UPDATE: So a few people have commented that they didn’t receive samples from Sephora stores in America. This has never been the case with me, although I’ve probably been to some of the larger ones in San Fransisco, New York and Hawaii. So I did a bit of googling and found that it is common practice that give up to three samples, but you may need to ask for these samples. The two types of samples I found discussed on google where pots made up from products for you while a staff member helps you sample them (which I did but no one offered to make me up a sample pot when I was unsure of the foundation) and the other type was samples given out at the register. I did query samples when I was making my purchase in sydney and wasn’t told that they were only for beauty insiders nor that they could request a sample of a product be made up for me. So definitely compared to the customer service I’m use to when visiting their American stores it was a let down.
* Maybe a slight exaggeration