My favourite global beauty retailer is back in the UK
I remember a colleague in the beauty industry telling me that British women don’t want to shop for luxury beauty products like groceries. Allegedly, we wanted luxury beauty dispensed only from counters, by uniformed sales consultants with time to devote to a single customer and brand. This was the blinkered argument put forward by beauty industry analysts to explain the UK closure of Sephora in 2005.
British culture had, they said, rejected the global retailer’s self-selection, multibrand retail model. Having been there, shopped there and written about it first time around, I suggested that we had merely rejected its bafflingly situated and (then) slightly grubby and gloomy UK stores. I continued to make Sephora my first stop whenever I visited the US, and hoped the company might soon come to its senses.
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It must be kicking itself for holding out on the shiny reboot. Last month, only a few months after LVMH-owned Sephora launched its UK e-commerce site, the first new bricks-and-mortar store opened at Westfield in London’s White City. From shutters-up, the place was mobbed with customers self-selecting the place dry.
It’s the first in an undisclosed number of openings and stocks over 135 skincare, makeup, fragrance, hair and body brands, from big names like Dior (Forever Natural Nude, £45, is among my favourite foundations), to indies like Gisou (honey-based hair products), plus exclusives such as Makeup By Mario (its Soft Sculpt Transforming Skin Enhancer, £35, is a sublime tinted glow balm) and own-brand Sephora Collection (well-priced skincare, makeup, accessories and tools from £1.99).
From shutters-up, the new London shop was mobbed with customers all filling their baskets
Established hipsters such as Drunk Elephant, Supergoop!, Milk Makeup, Fenty and JVN (my love for the Intense Recovery Serum, from £12, knows no bounds) are also in there, as is the previously hard to find Tarte (excellent Shape Tape concealer, £27). Well, I hope they will be. When I visited at the end of opening weekend, the shelves looked like a March 2020 pasta aisle. While the shop restocks, beauty fans can busy themselves with Sephora “experiences”, such as AI skin diagnostics, perfume bottle engraving, Benefit brow shaping and makeup artistry appointments.
My British sensibility accepts it all gleefully, with the exception of self checkout. There will, it seems, never not be an unidentified item in my bagging area.