Rant & Rave: ULTA

Share: Tell us what you love and hate about ULTA!

my answer: I think it’s cool that you can get your drgustore and mid-to-high-end favorites in the same spot. I’ve only been to ULTA two or three times in person, so I have primarily experienced the retailer online. They’ve had some atrocious shipping in the past with a record-breaking number of shattered items arriving upon arrival for me compared to any other online retailer, which has been a sore point for me. I love their rewards system, and I think it’s easy to use and good for the customer. Their website needs a major overhaul, and their processing and shipping speeds are the slowest for a major retailer.

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I waited a long time for an Ulta to come to my town and when it did, I was not really impressed. It is across the street from a Target where I can reliably get the drugstore end products. Not so at the Ulta. Everything is terribly picked over, out of stock, testers missing. I do go in from time to time and I do like their rewards system but, aside from NYX, I don’t buy many of the products that they carry. I can do better at Target, Walgreens or CVS. The NYX display is always a total mess with big gaps where products should be. The SAs have told me that they a have a problem with shop lifting teens. The atmosphere is not friendly although I find the SAs to be attentive. I guess they have to be! It is not a relaxing shopping experience. Browsing is discouraged. I mailed ordered a few times before the store came to town and I found the shipping time to be very long. I almost gave up waiting for my packages. I did not experience any breakage but then I only mail ordered a couple of times.

I’ve mentioned the issue of NYX being OOS sooo often to different SA’s at several stores, and I was told that it wasn’t that the store doesn’t want to keep the shelves stocked, but NYX only allows ULTA so much stock, and ULTA would rather keep the majority online. When NYX did the pastel lippies a while back, each store was allowed one display/shipment, and once those sold, that was it. So while ULTA should send more product to individual stores, NYX should also allow them more stock.

You’d think Nyx would want to sell if the demand is there. Are they just hoping people will like them, buy from their website, and then they don’t have to share money with ULTA? That’s the only thing I can think. *smh*

They take FOREVER to ship. There are times I’ve ordered from them, and when the package finally arrived at my door I had to stop to ask myself “what was it that I ordered again?”

I like ulta online, but yes there web site needs some help, there shipping so incredibly slow. I don’t like how you don’t get to chose your samples. Last time I chose the skin care bundle of samples, I got one card advertising benefits puff off, but there was no sample. I wanted to call, but was to lazy to call. The whole time I was thinking where are my other samples. There gifts with purchases are okay, but I always rather not get one because then if I do not like the product I ordered, I have to return the gift with purchase or I will get charged.

Same thing happened to me! I got an ad for Benefit’s new mascara, but my skincare samples weren’t there!

I love Ulta’s rewards program and the fact that I can get both drug store and high end products at one place. I also like the fact that they have more frequent 20% off sales compared to Sephora. I hate how you can’t get samples in store if you want to try out a foundation. Nothing I want ever seems to be in stock, especially NYX products. Plus there is never anyone around on the floor if you need help.

I love their reward system, I’d rather get cash back instead of dinky “deluxe” sized samples like Sephora. I absolutely detest their shipping and handling. Sephora has the best return policy compared to Ulta, imo and that’s the main reason why I prefer Sephora to Ulta.

I love Ulta’s coupons and incentive program but the physical store me always looks like it has been looted. They almost never have what I want in stock and the displays are always trashed. The sales associates are fine, I’ve never needed any help so I can’t complain.

I agree with everything you said! The shipping is ridiculous. When I go to the store they never have anything in stock and most of what is available for purchased has been picked at and tampered with by other customers. The only thing that keeps me shopping there is the awards system. It makes complete sense to me to give the customer discounts the more they shop there. Don’t even get me started on the Sephora Rewards program….

Ulta is a store with a brick-and-mortar strategy. It’s online business is just a lazy add-on service that they clearly have not devoted serious effort into developing. Even their coupons and promos often have an in-store mentality to them – one time use coupons that have limited, regional distribution and lots of “specials of the day”- type promos that rarely make sense to order online given their awful shipping.

If I lived near Ulta, their rewards program and pretty good specials might make shopping their worthwhile.

But they are too frustrating to deal with online.

They somehow blocked me from ordering online after my first online order last June…now I can only shop in store and the store nearly almost never have the stuff I want in stock πŸ™ I like their 20% off coupons though

Their web site is outdated, and their “play stations” (as I call them) for trying on makeup are hardly user-friendly. No good applicators, no alcohol or makeup remover, nothing. Nice to have high-end and drugstore brands in one location, but the Ultas near me very rarely seem to have the latest drugstore-brand collections. And all the displays are terribly maintained. There’s a reason I call Ulta the poor woman’s Sephora… it’s just no fun to shop there.

Ulta can be just as nice as Sephora depending on where you live. In most cases Ulta is even bigger and they have frequent sales. Sephora has more expensive items, faster shipping, and tons of samples you can swatch if you wish. Ulta not so much. No samples there but their point system is much better and their selection is huge. I have yet to see my favorite products out of stock at an Ulta, but you can bet Sephora stores always have something you want to buy out of stock or on-line only. So it’s a preference thing really.

Ladies, just think reusable bags…. I have brought clean sample vials to Ulta + have yet to be turned down on a sample by an SA. I think the no sample thing is a guideline, not a policy. It also prevents additional messy pick-over. As long as a tester is open, Ulta seems glad to dispense. Or, you can dispense your own on the QT.

Our newish Ulta suffered a roof collapse this winter. They were only closed for long enough to assure the safety of the public. (I get it…) The cave-in area was crime-scene-taped, but the SAs would get you product from the danger area. (including NYX, hah hah lol!) But it did result in additional footage/redo of the NYX display.

The website is fair at best (but high-end Barney’s is MUCH WORSE) but the S+H are world class dreadful, as all have noted.

The Ultas where I live are hit and miss. One of them is AMAZING. Their selection is always fantastic, I’ve never really seen an item out of stock, the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable, and it’s always sparkling clean. I have no qualms about swatching things on my arms. Additionally, when they notice an employee is doing really well, they actually reward them. I’ve seen several of them promoted since it opened and they all seem really happy to work there. It’s obvious that they have amazing leadership and that they inspire their employees to go the extra mile, which makes a huge difference. When you have great leadership that notices when you do a great job, keeping testers cleaned and things stocked and organized, not to mention going out of your way to help a customer seems less tedious.

The others in the immediate area, however, ::sigh::. Needless to say, I drive extra to go to the nice one.

Well i’ve found great deals in the store but i hate their messy displays, it seems like a hurricane had passed there. Also the lack of stock sometimes is a bit disappointing

I feel as if Ulta’s marketing has been static and linear for years now with no intention of improving. Their customer service is god awful. Their actual stores are even worse. I have a myriad of stories about from them being slow to restock foundation colors for women of color to them always being out of stock of hot brands (Real Techniques, Eco Tools, etc). When their sale was going on two weeks ago for Maybelline Products I was told they would restock a foundation color, which they did. Then I went to go purchase the item but wanted to see if the shade would be a match and was told to stand in line. I just honestly rather go to Sephora and pay more with better customer service. The actual Sephora Collection is a nice mid-range answer to drugstore anyway.

I agree with everyone else so far on their shipping… I have only ordered from them two or three times and while nothing arrived broken, I stopped ordering from them because packages take far too long to arrive. If I need something from them I’ll just walk into the store, however there aren’t many things they carry that I can’t just get somewhere else easier – and sometimes for less.

Hate that Ulta doesn’t ship to Canada. Also, hate that most of their coupons rule out almost everything except for the drugstore stuff. Why even bother hyping a coupon when the list of brands exclusion is a page long.

Website is hard to navigate and WAY too many exclusions with the sales. Just not worth my time to shuffle through all their fine print. I just want to shop. Their prices on drugstore items are too high. Things are always out of stock and the help is non existent.

I don’t have an Ulta in my town.I have two stores about an hour and a half from me, in different directions. They are night and day. One is well stocked, clean, with helpful associates. The other is picked over, messy, with barely a worker in sight. If I had only experienced the latter I wouldn’t think highly of Ulta at all. Are these stores franchised ?

I like the rewards system.

*Rave – 20% off for Platinum Members beats 15% off Sephora sale, can earn Reward Dollars, have both drugstore and middle end brands, have brands that Sephora doesn’t carry ( IT, Mally, Lorac , etc), have weekly sales/promos, 21 days of Beauty (got 50% off BareMineral shadow kits!) , and they have an exclusive line of IT Brushes (yay!!)
*Rant – worst website ever –every time I order online, I run into a horrible glitch. The website freezes, or everything in my basket disappears. And website could be a lot more user-friendly. I haven’t had any issues with things breaking or being poorly packed, but it’s the slowest shipping ever !!

The Ulta near me is small and out of the way, with annoyingly narrow aisles and slightly overbearing staff, so I don’t really enjoy going there. I like shopping their siteβ€”I appreciate that they have more frequent 20% off codes than Sephora, and that their points act as cash. But yeah, their shipping is a disaster. Most of the time it takes 2 weeks for an order to get to me, plus I generally have to go to the post office to retrieve packages (and since I live in a major city, that’s a real pain). The site isn’t sleek at all, so it’s not the best online shopping experience, but I do love that I can buy drugstore and higher end products at the same timeβ€”that makes it easy to meet the $50 minimum for free shipping (though I wish they offered something like Sephora Flash for platinum rewards members!).

I’ve only ordered online a few times, but haven’t had issues with broken or damaged items. I do think it can take longer than usual. So perhaps questionable packaging + longer transit times is what leads to others receiving busted products? In store, I’ve typically had good experiences, though, even when my store is probably not the biggest and doesn’t carry all of the brands and products offered online. I do think their reward system is better than Sephora, as you can use your points for actual purchases and not just samples. If it weren’t for a few key brands, I would rarely shop at Sephora now that I’m only 30 minutes away from both stores.

I love their nail polish selection, and that they usually carry the latest mainstream polish releases. I like that they frequently have coupons and sales, and the reward system with cash back benefits is preferable to Sephora’s – in my opinion. I also love the IT Brushes for Ulta, and look forward to more collabs with mid- to high-end brands. I must echo the comments about Ulta’s website; it’s simply horrible. The store front is always a hit or miss experience as well. Often times the store looks ransacked with items out of place, out of stock. I don’t like how the associates follow me around whenever I go in. I went in last weekend, and I was followed around the entire time! They must really be profiling people to steal things — so I wanted to tell them that I make my own money and have never stolen in my life! LOL I also feel like they don’t appreciate when I have to return things, especially if the products were opened or used. I just don’t get a warm friendly feeling when I shop there.

One thing I appreciate about Ulta is that it’s kind of a one-stop makeup shop. You can walk in and find your favorite high-end products, then some drugstore, and a terrific selection of hair tools and nail polish. I also think their reward system is unreal β€” turning points into cash is something that Sephora should consider.

But to me the negative side of Ulta seems to outweigh the good β€” the website. I think a lot of the reason I’m so offended by the website is because I’m a grpahic designer and it’s my job to pay attention to things like simple navigation and ease of use. This website is truly terrible. Searching by brand AND category of product never works, its hard to see all products at once, the product photos are almost boring, the colors and fonts are distracting.

I’m hoping this isn’t offensive to anyone β€” I do understand that a lot of the reason this site looks like it does is because Ulta is trying to uphold a brand but this website doesn’t feel finished and because of that, I try not to use it.

For me, the highlights of ULTA are the gift with purchases, the rewards program, the different events (like the recent 21 Days of Beauty), and the unique brands that I can’t find elsewhere in the US that have been introduced to me through ULTA (CK One Beauty, Essence, etc.). The reason for the last reason is because a lot of unique brands and makeup brands from overseas have lately been pulled from Sephora, which I prefer for it’s shipping speed. A lot of those brands now seem even more difficult to gain access too (Illamasqua, Fairydrops mascara, etc.), which sucks since I really enjoyed everything I purchased from Illamasqua.

Like many people have commented, I find the shipping for ULTA can kind of be a mystery. There was at least one order where I received the package without ever realizing a tracking number was sent to me. I also wish that the testers for the more uncommon drugstore priced items, like Essence, had something to wipe the swatches off with. I believe there is makeup remover and cotton pads near the more more expensive makeup but I don’t think customers are supposed to use it without a brand representative…

I love that my local Ulta is not in the big mall so it’s easier to get to and park. They don’t carry enough of the brands that I love like Nars and Laura Mercier. Their rewards program is great and I love that they carry drugstore brands too.

Rave: I can use my points to buy Prestige Products. The 20% off coupon is my favorite.
Rant: Store Brand. Products keep getting discontinued ESPECIALLY when I find one that I like.

As for shipping, I only ordered online with them once with no problems whatsoever. Must have gotten a lucky break on that one.

I love the convenience of having drugstore and higher end products in one place. The store I go to needs a lesson in keeping things clean. I also feel that the employees aren’t as knowledgeable as the employees at Sephora. I like Ulta’s rewards program a little more than others…they seem to have 20% off coupons for higher end stuff more often than Sephora. Also you can apply your points for money off your purchase. The website is ok…it really bothered me that I couldn’t see if a store had a product in stock..thankfully they recently changed this. The shipping process is awful..it takes forever..and my package usually looks like it it’s been to hell and back. Even with all it’s flaws, it’s still a fun place to shop.

I have had nothing but bad luck with Ulta! The customer service is non existent, the displays are always a mess, and the sales associates are clueless. That being said…I visited one near where my boyfriend lives, at the opposite end of my state, and it was clean, well organized, and the staff were friendly if not as knowledgeable as I’d like. I refuse to use Ulta again even if that means paying shipping from another website or driving the extra hour to get to a Sephora or a Target.

Rant: There are none close by me, and I have to drive to the next town over (Sephora, I have to go 2 towns over, though). Drug store aisles are constantly wiped out and messy. If you buy online and return instore, the UPC codes on your receipt don’t match the stores, and the clerk has to take time looking them up. The website is glitchy and outdated. Shipping times are really long, and there is no free shipping option like with Sephora Flash. Hit and miss as to how helpful floor help is.

Rave: Cash back rewards, plus I can online shop through Ebates and get more back. Lots of sales and coupons. Good variety of products. Stores are bigger and more open than Sephora’s. Good, friendly service at the stores; help not pushy. Online customer service is prompt and goes above and beyond. Shipped items are packed better than with Sephora, Drugstore/Beauty.com, etc.

Rant: Website is awful, shipping is awful, samples with orders are never decent, every time I’ve been in-store I’ve been treated poorly, and they don’t have full product ranges.

Rave: They seem to have a great rewards system, but I can’t bring myself to spend any money there anymore.

I like the 3.50 off $10 coupons, but those are the only reason I go in there. The one closest to my house is usually a disaster of opened/unsealed products, pencils and lipsticks smeared into caps and low stock– especially for the drugstore brands. Other stores I’ve been to haven’t seemed as bad as the one by my house.

Their return policy is annoying. Recently I got a NYX Lip Crayon online that looked nothing like the swatch. I wanted to exchange it but threw out the packing slip, they wouldn’t let me exchange it. I spend hundreds of dollars in there and was going to spend more in there that day. I was so annoyed I just left and didn’t buy anything. Not to mention the Ulta in my area always looks gross, the testers are nasty and they never look stocked. I travel to another Ulta 1/2 and hour away instead of going to the one 5 minutes from my house.

They don’t need a packing slip(doesn’t have prices) they need proof of purchase showing the price you paid, which is always e-mailed to you. This is due to coupons and points affecting the actual priced that was paid. They should have explained that though, so you got crappy customer service. Sorry! I work there and the cashiers are super good about returns at my store.

Another rant – the way their receipts deduct coupons is WACKO. I can never figure out what price I paid for anything because the register deducts different amounts from each item when you use one of their coupons. It makes me wonder if I got the correct price on anything when I look over my receipt. It’s really bizarre.

They distribute the coupon throughout your purchase based on how much the item was. So if you get two items of the same price, it takes $1.75 off each item. It does the same thing if you buy 1, get 1 free, for example. It will take half off each item. This is so you don’t get screwed out of the price of one item if you were to return it. Instead of getting $0.00 for the free item, you would get half the price back.

Thankfully, all the discounts are labeled on your receipt, so it’s not that hard to figure it out if you look for it.

I typically shop in store, so I’ve only ordered from their website a few times. I never had an issue with shipping, but their website is terrible to navigate. I agree–it needs an overhaul.

Rave: I do love their rewards system, and there’s almost always a $3.50 or 20% off coupon (on non-prestige brands only- purchase over $10). I present one every time I go, and it makes a small purchase like mascara or nail polish seem like a real treat and a great deal. They often have great deals too, like BOGO 50% off.

Rant: Pricing can be sneaky… especially on drugstore skincare and hair products, I’ve noticed. Their original pricing starts off higher than at Target, so even if it’s marked 15-20% off, it still might be a better deal somewhere else. It also seems like they’re always out of stock of at least one item I came to purchase… really inconvenient.

If you’re going to shop at Ulta, sign up for the rewards and always bring a coupon. Otherwise, you’re probably better off somewhere else.

They have high turnover, so no one really has any training or can help you. I’ve been told a few times that they don’t have or have never heard of something I want and after I searched it out, I found it. Drugstore products are 20% more than Target, so the coupon doesn’t help there. Testers are missing, displays are a mess and they’re always out of stock on the most basic items. I had one SA get mad because I asked for a new palette when it first launched and she had kept one back for herself in the stock room and didn’t want to sell it. It makes me think the floor is empty because the SAs all have a stockpile going of the new goodies.

I go once a year to stock up on my shampoo when it’s on sale and use a coupon. Their online store is mess and it takes two weeks for me to get anything, so I don’t even look at it anymore. I do wish Sephora would switch over their rewards system to be like Ulta. I have thousands of points that I can never figure out what to do with. I’m sampled out!

Staff hoarding products for themselves drives me crazy!! I worked in retail for YEARS including as a store manager. Every store I have ever heard of has a policy that staff cannot place items “on hold” especially if it is a hot new product or release. Only at the end of their shift can staff pull a product from the sales floor and purchase it. So if the product is sold out before the end of their shift – to bad, so sad. Now, I never worked at an Ulta but I cannot imagine their policy being any different. Your experience (along with what others have posted here) reflects poor management, including regional management. I think the inconsistent service, spotty stock, and the hit and miss store cleanliness also reveals that management with strong oversight is clearly a huge problem for Ulta.

All rant, no rave for ULTA from me! My experiences in-store have been “meh” at best, but I have never been able to place an online order with them! They have no issue freezing my funds for the order, but they would never actually confirm it and send it my way, oh no. I’ve sold any gift cards I’ve received from them, and I honestly don’t think the samples are worth the hassle. I’ll stick to Sephora/Nordstrom/beauty.com for my beauty needs.

My rant would be 2-fold, the first part being that there are no Ulta stores here in Canada (I do have an Ulta card as I shop there when I’m in the US) and the 2nd part being that they are very often out of stock on things I’ve made a special trip there to get (and not even LE stuff). I do like the store though and it’s the best source for the single Real Techniques brushes (if they have them in stock, which is just what I keep encountering!)

I like the range of brands that they carry, there’s a good variety from drugstore to high-end. I also enjoy their constant coupons, although I wish it was valid on all brands and not just the drugstore ones. They also have great regular sales and events, like the 21 days of beauty which offers some great deals.

Their website is a mess. It’s the least user-friendly website I’ve seen for a major national retailer. The stores are not very welcoming, and the sales associate have consistently been unhelpful and often unprofessional. They also have a major problem of products being ruined by customers opening and trying them on (I’ve had this issue with makeup AND skincare products bought in their stores), and they don’t seem to try and address it.

I totally agree with you! I have been in to purchase a couple of products and the items were sold out and apparently the testers stolen and the associates didn’t even care. They just said that it happens all the time! Umm..hello..put in some cameras or something!

There are cameras everywhere but unfortunately, employees are told to customer service thieves, not accuse them and kick them out. I worked for Ulta long ago and let me tell you, employees don’t give a crap because the managers don’t give a crap. I was always the one tattling but nothing came of it so, I stopped caring and focused on making a sales goal than being on the next episode of, “To Catch a Thief.”

As for being understaffed and lack of product knowledge, as with any other company, they don’t provide enough hours per store to keep it fully staffed. Employees would be trained on certain brands maybe 1-2x a year! No exaggeration. And let me just say that not everyone would get to attend these trainings, only “prestige” consultants. So, if you ask the manager or girl at checkout something about Urban Decays latest collection, they’ll most likely not know the answer.

Jaime, Well hopefully karma will get them. That is crazy! Makes me not want to shop there. I was I in Sephora once and a man came in with a bunch of unopened UD products trying to return them without a receipt for cash back. The Sephora manager finally had to call security because the products were not even purchased from a Sephora store. I wonder if he lifted them for Ulta stores. I could see it being fairly simple especially with the low staffing.
As far as the staff not being up on the brands, I absolutely do not hold that against them. They are always friendly and usually just tell me they don’t know and that this sells good ad this doesn’t or I just ask their opinion. I generally know to do my research before going there. I don’t shop for a foundation there unless I know my shade. Thanks for sharing your experience working there. I do wish they would step it up a bit more and give Sephora a bit more competition! πŸ™‚

Oh yeah! This stuff happens at Ulta all the time! I’ll never forget the day I was standing at the cash register when I noticed a man walk in and head straight to prestige skincare and fragrance and just start picking stuff up. He came up to me and said, “I want to return this. My girlfriend paid cash but I don’t have the receipt.” Bold! So I said, “you walked in here empty-handed and I watched as you got these off the shelves. Please leave before I call security.” Some people will do anything! I was afraid to even take a sample home, even if I was making a purchase. Employees are not allowed to take samples as those are for the guests. We can’t even put stuff on hold until AFTER the ad is over. Doing so may result in a write-up. Not worth it.

I’m right there with you! Ulta needs to step it up! Provide employees with gratis the way Sephora does as this will give them more experience with new brands and such. We only got gratis during holiday meeting and when/if we had a contest. Gratis consisted of sample size product. All the big stuff like too faced and urban palettes were taken by the managers. Makes me mad just thinking about that.
Staffing should also be looked into. I remember running around trying to help someone with a colour match in maybelline, trying to watch someone in fragrance, trying to get to the lady waiting in bare minerals, and trying to help the one associate on the register with 10 people in line. It was a crazy time, I tell ya!

I got one word..KARMA for those people.
As far as ULTA. I generally find all their employees really friendly. I just hate that they are treated that way! I’m so confused as to stop shopping there so they don’t have my business or to shop there more so they can have more revenue to maybe expand and offer more to their employees. ugh! I hear you on the product testing..that is absurd! I know at Sephora, they pretyy much try whatever they want and are give wonderful gratis from what I hear. Plus I believe a 20-30% empoloyee discount. Every holiday, I think about taking a weekend/night PT job there just for the discount! But, then I get too busy shopping and my daughter is still a little young and she sucks all my soare time up,lol..(jk..I love being with her). I do have a friend who works a Ckinique counter. She gets mass free product..it’s nuts.I hope you have moved on to bigger and better career options. Nobody deserves to be treated like they are not of value to the company. That is generally a company that won’t be along too long.

Oooohhh girl! Make friends to hook you up with a discount. Your baby needs you and even if you work part-time, it’s basically a full-time position with all the craziness you have to deal with. Lol

How funny, I worked for Clinique at Macys. I can’t seem to escape retail/beauty counters. Not that it’s a bad thing πŸ˜‰

Lol..I’ll take your advice then. I feel overwhelmed with one job as is! I’d love to work in beauty I think. I don’t know if I would care for the hours though since I’m a single parent.Maybe when. I retire,i ‘ll be the old lady working the makeup counter!:)

Their rewards program is great, and at least they have the full line of NYX products (my Target only has a small selection). Plus I really do like having the selection of drugstore and high end in one place.

I didn’t have too much of a problem with their customer service when the palette I ordered came shattered, but it was still a pain to have to send it back. I also find that the some sections in particular at both stores (I have two in my city) are almost always picked over (like Nyx and Real Techniques).

I agree, they need to step up their web site and the shipping is horrible. I have placed 2 orders and both times the items were destroyed inside. The only thing I like is the rewards program. I wish Sephora would adopt the same structure. I have over 4000 points and would love to have that converted to cash!

Their website is a disaster. Also, a lot of their mid-priced lines are kind of garbage (Napolean Perdis, Calvin Klein). It would be nice for them to carry more boutique-y brands that were within the same price point but perhaps lesser known. It would also be nice if they carried more natural brands than weird-smelling Juice.

I love their haircare section. You can get any hair appliance or product under the sun.

The two Ultas in my town got rid of Lorac, but kept Calvin Klein. They did get rid of the NP, but instead they replaced with with Pur Minerals. It makes no sense.

Their rewards system beats Sephora’s hands-down, and I like that they have drugstore brands that are harder to find like NYX, Essence, and Real Techniques. It’s also nice that they run more frequent sales than Sephora.

However, I get SO annoyed and frustrated every time I go into their store because it’s so poorly stocked and the displays are usually ravaged. I’ve found this to be the case at the multiple Ultas I’ve been to across the country. It baffles me! I feel like their NYX stuff is especially sparse. There have been many instances when I have waited MONTHS for an item to be restocked in the store.

I went in recently to repurchase a Physicians Formula eyeliner and the display literally looked like someone had hurled a boulder into it. It was so messy that there was merchandise lying on the floor. The eyeliner was sold out, obviously, so I went over to the NYX section to pick up some of the new HD blushes. Only 2 of the ~9 shades were in stock and every single one was shattered. Then I tried to check out the High Voltage Lipstick — none of them were in stock and all of the testers were either smashed or missing. This is just one instance of many.

I also hate that their shipping takes so long and most of the color swatches on their site look nothing like the actual products. There have been several times when I thought I had ordered the wrong thing because the color in the picture on the site looked so drastically different from the item in person.

Not to mention, you’d think a store dedicated exclusively to beauty products would be the first to have the new and limited edition collections, but no. I usually find new stuff at Walgreens, CVS, or Sephora weeks before it turns up at Ulta.

/rant

Despite all of the problems with Ulta (incompletely re-stocked nyx products, occasional long shipping times, unhappy sales associates, inability to cancel an online order after being made, etc…), I must commend them for their rewards system and frequent 20% off prestige coupons to frequent buyers. I would still buy from ulta over sephora if there were products carried between both retailers because of the cash rewards system.

Rave: Rewards program is great, I love the low /no pressure shopping is the store, Easy returns, Starting to expand brands, Online has a lot of stuff. Good customer service. I agree on the availability of drugstore and HE brands in one spot.Oh, good sales!
Rant; Shipping charges should be free if your are a rewards member!; shipping is super slow, I have had an item missing. But in their defense I contacted them and that item was overnighted free of charge, Very stingy about samples, I think they should expand their return policy to compete with Sephora. Never enough SA around and they know hardly nothing or anything about the products so basically you are on your own. Another thing is the stock in the store often is poor, especially the drugstore side and NYX and Maybelline.
I like going to Ulta when I am not in the mood for the craziness of the mall. I feel ok going into Ulta looking a mess . Buy, I really don’t like doing that going into Sephora,lol. Just a different atmosphere and whole different experience. Also generally, I can get in and out of Ulta. but, if I go into Sephora, it’s at least going to be 30 minutes minimum and that is totally rushing.

I use my local Ulta for picking up Zoya and China glaze polishes ( but Sally Beauty is much better for China Glaze ) and higher end hair products, and for eye brow waxing services. I have appreciated their points redemption program for purchasing hair tools and appliances. Their coupons have too many restrictions excluding most of my preferred brands of make up and skincare.

I will agree on the shipping. One time I thought something was wrong because it took an entire 5 business days for them to actually SHIP what I ordered. Thankfully I have never gotten anything broken/shattered from them. That being said the only Ulta stores I’ve gone to have been very nice and big. I love their reward system and I go there for toiletries in order to rack up points and got Naked on the Run for $4.00. And yes, they definitely give out 20% off on everything way more often than Sephora, a few times a year it seems like, maybe once a term or a quarter? Which is great to get Urban Decay products at a discount and whatever other higher-end brands they carry (Benefit, Lorac, Tarte, Bareminerals, etc). So yea, so far it’s definitely a positive experience (just need to work on shipping time). Thankfully I have a store 5 minutes away πŸ™‚

I never really see the point of Ulta. Drugstore stuff I pick up at Target or Walgreens and hgih end stuff is better stocked at Sephora. I haven’t been in one in years ’cause there’s no reason to go.

Rave: I got a full-sized CK One mascara for my birthday. I would not have tried the brand without having received this gift. The mascara is now one of my favorites.

Rant: Does Ulta offer samples? I’ve gone there many times and tested products but the sales associates have never ever offered me a sample. I didn’t even know if I should ask since no one ever made it an option.

They do not offer samples made from testers like Sephora does. They do have a good return policy (just get a rewards card and all your purchases are tracked so even if you lose a receipt there’s a record of the purchase), so they rely more on that.

I think sampling depends on the associate. I had an amazing one once who did make me up a sample when I expressed I wasn’t sure about a particular product but that was the only time ( this particular associate is amazing and the only one I’ve seen hustling like a true sales champ). As someone who works in retail, I believe the problems with in-store experience comes down to one thing….allowable payroll. If management can’t schedule enough people to cover the twin demands of customer service and store recovery, you are guaranteed to get the situations everyone is describing…no help, dirty store, opened product, and fears of theft. Compare the number of associates per square feet of selling space between Sephora and Ulta and you have the company’s sales philosophy in a nutshell.

I’m no where near an Ulta & I live in Canada so they won’t ship to me either. Doesn’t sound like I’m missing a whole lot from the comments above though!! πŸ˜‰

I like Ulta. I heard about them years ago but none were in my area so I only shopped at Sephora. Now I have three stores at arms length! I have to agree that their website is dated. It’s hard to look for products, their shipping is long but it has gotten better and samples if you’re lucky you’ll get some. I found a really good hairdresser using Ulta’s salon that knows how to cut my curly hair. I’ve stopped shopping at drug stores to only shop at Ulta for my drug store brands and their rewards points.

That’s interesting about the online retailer–I’ll have to remember especially if I’m ordering gifts.

My experience with Ulta is mostly in-store so I’ll mostly talk about that.

Rave: I love that it can be a one-stop shop for hair, skin, nails, and cosmetics–especially if you really rather not drive all over. There is a wide selection of brands with many different price ranges. I love that while shopping I can speak with knowledgeable hair stylists and get honest opinions about hair tools, hair styling and hair products and then turn around and talk to an MUA. Sephora doesn’t have this at all especially for hair and many department stores that do offer a salon are out of the way. All the employees at my store are very nice. The rewards system is nice too.

Rant: They don’t have great stations for testing/swatching products (well–not like Sephora–where it comes fully stocked with different applicators, kleenex, cotton pads, different removers, and brushes). I don’t believe you can get samples of things either. Ulta doesn’t allow coupon-stacking and there are a lot of excluded brands that the coupons apply to. The MUA’s are great for technique, ideas and color-matching–but not so great with knowledge about all the different products. I feel like Ulta is always short-staffed compared to a Sephora of similar size. Displays can be messy.

I guess I am the exception here. The Ulta in my area is always busy but well stocked, clean and the employees are sweet and helpful. I also order online regularly and have had no issues. The shipping isn’t the fastest but it’s definitely not the slowest company I order from (I’m looking at you NYX!). I do wish you could get samples, especially of foundation.

The sales people can be hit-or-miss; I have come across a few that were utterly clueless. Love the rewards system, but when a product has a gift with purchase/sample you have to remind them (the cashier usually looks puzzled & leafs through the circular like I’ve just told her something utterly revolutionary). And online CS…I have had a few times where I have emailed with a question; no response, emailed again, 2 weeks later finally a reply. Doesn’t make me confident about ordering online- if that’s what I have to go through with a simple inquiry, what happens when there’s an issue with my order??

I’ve had that happen with Sephora & Urban Decay. NARS takes a couple of weeks, but they state that on the page. MAC actually responds almost immediately!

Ulta brick and mortar stores vary wildly. Of the four I occasionally frequent (two near my family in another state, two near me), they range from poorly stocked with staff in high avoidance mode to beautifully-kept and -managed branches. I do wish their upper management was more responsive. I tried to reach them probably 4x through email, auto contact-us forms and even Yelp over truly disgusting practices and conditions at one of their stores and I never heard back.

I’ve ordered online several times and while I fortunately haven’t had anything arrive damaged, their website is a labyrinth and the fact that it doesn’t have routine search, sort, filter and other navigation functions certainly make me spend less time on it. They also often have products listed that are no longer available for sale, which screws up the ordering process. It does remain, as someone noted, an afterthought.

Since Ulta and Sephora have very different business models, it’s difficult to compare them in most ways. But over the past year, I’ve had repeated problems with Sephora – from bait-and-switch with online samples and really nasty email responses from their online customer services people to the most basic popular products left unstocked to disinterested staff at various stores – so I don’t consider them the gold standard any longer. And while I’ve generally preferred the type of products Sephora carries, they’ve gotten so carried away with showcasing brands in which they’ve clearly got an ownership stake (hello, Kat von D!) that they aren’t pursuing the new and interesting lines they used to discover. I wish Ulta really took the old Avis slogan to heard (the “we’re #2, so we try harder”). And while I agree with others who prefer Ulta’s cash back awards rather than Sephora’s teeny tiny samples of stuff I’d never use, I so wish my 1600+ Ulta points translated to more than around $30.

I like quite a few of the Ulta brand items and find their lipsticks have the same creamy consistency I like in higher-end brands but (rant) THEY ARE ALMOST ALWAYS SOLD OUT!!! The stores around here don’t keep up on their house brand, don’t restock, don’t clean up the displays so everything gets all switched around, the testers get stolen/removed/used up/mixed up and nobody ever bothers to clean up the displays. The lipsticks and eye shadows are frequently sold down to nearly nothing and the stock not replenished — they are the WalMart of cosmetics when it comes to being sold out of everything and not replacing the empty shelves!!

I have an Ulta 8 minutes from my place and like it ok. Although I do agree that the store isn’t always fully stocked and can look messy at times. Also, the one I visit has no signal ….can’t check email or send texts, it’s infuriating! The sales associates can be a bit distracted. The other day I purchased $30 worth of Tarte which come with a sample size neck cream which I wanted for travel. I had to remind her and she couldn’t find the sample and tried to offer me something from IT cosmetics which I didn’t want. ( she looked again and found it ).

I don’t have long waits for my items to arrive but I agree that their website isn’t too great and definitely needs a make-over. I like their rewards system much better ( I’m close to becoming a platinum rewards member ) and I do like their deals.

I agree with a lot of what people have said thus far but I also think I’ve had a better-than-most experience with Ulta. I’m lucking enough to live near enough to their main headquarters that I get anything I order in 3-4 days (if its nail polish, it will take closer to 5-6) and I’ve only ever had one thing (Stila palette) get slightly shattered in shipping. Granted, I rarely order powder products online because I’m always so afraid of things being shattered!
Also I’m lucky enough to have two Ultas within about 20 minutes driving from me. My main one is near Target so I’m in there around once a week (haha I know, its a problem πŸ™‚ ) and the other one is much bigger and nicer and only just slightly farther away. My smaller Ulta is definitely more picked through in the drugstore brands, especially NYX, but it doesn’t affect me much because I rarely buy NYX. The drugstore pricing is usually higher priced than at Target or Walmart, but Ulta has coupons and sales SO OFTEN I can usually get things close to half off their original price anywhere πŸ™‚
Also I love love love the reward point system so much more than Sephora’s. $100 is 100 points and one sample at Sephora, and their samples are very rarely things I can use (I’m allergic to a lot of the things in most of their skincare samples). For Ulta, dollars spent turn into dollars I can spend on the prestige brands, many of which are also at Sephora! I recently used points to get two of the new Clinique Pop Lipsticks FOR FREE because I had enough points πŸ™‚ For me, that is SO worth it.
Also, my local Sephora is TERRIBLE. It’s the worst one I’ve ever shopped at in the last three places I’ve lived. So I’ll take Ulta over Sephora any day πŸ™‚

I sometimes shop Ulta, but only for a few items (IT Cosmetic& brushes, Lorac, hairspray, Alterna products.) and when I can’t get to Sephora. I never buy staples such as Dove body wash at Ulta – always hit Target for those items.
Overall their makeup stock is picked over and a little disorganized. They sell a lot of lower cost items that I have zero interest in. Just not a fan.
And their coupons make me crazy! So annoying to think I could have saved 3.50, 4.00, or whatever had I not forgotten the darn coupon.

(+)=ULTA does have a great reward system and they have better sales than Sephora. I like that they have a full range of hair care products. For high end and drugstore brand hair care they are better than Sep.

(-)= They are ALWAYS out of everything you want. The one in Huntington Beach, Ca is always out. I heard other ULTA stores are better but shopping there is so frustrating. Also, the Ulta in HB has aTarget and Nordstroms Rack across the street. NR sells NYX so does Target and other brands. What is the point of buying drug store brands at ULTA? The store needs more personality. There is no ambiance. No pull to get you into the store. Interior needs a makeover.

I love the rewards, the 20% off the whole store coupon, and the IT Cosmetics. I don’t like that items are often sold out and it’s hit or miss with the sales help. Some are very knowledgeable and others not so much. I’ve never ordered online and after reading some of the posts I probably never will!

I have an Ulta close by but can’t remember the last time I went in. Their stock is always very low. I have never found what I was looking for. Online is an exercise in frustration. Very poor web design. Also, they have the worst shipping department of any online retailer.

Ulta is a hit or miss. I like the shampoo and conditioner sale. Had online order once. Luckily the order didn’t take too long to arrive.

I actually prefer Ulta to Sephora. If I’m looking to buy something both stores carry I’ll buy from Ulta. And the biggest reason is the rewards program. Right now I have about $200 stockpiled that I can spend on anything on their site. Then there’s the gifts with purchase. Ulta almost always has these, plus there are samples with every order. And the coupons. I get 20% off coupons all the time, and they often work for the “prestige brands” even though they say they’re not eligible for coupons (this could be because I’m a platinum member and these are special coupons, IDK). Sephora? There’s never gifts with purchase, 15% off coupons maybe twice a year, and to get a deluxe sample of anything you have to spend $100 first then fork over those hard earned points during your next transaction. Ridiculous. Now I’ll admit that the shipping is painfully slow, but I’ve never had anything arrive damaged. If anything did though I could just swap it out at my local store where the SA’s are super friendly and helpful. And while I do like a lot of higher end brands that only Sephora carries I can’t have gluten, and UD’s eyeshadows, 99% of Too Faced, and the entire tarte range are gluten free and Ulta carries all three brands. Also I’ve gone into Ulta and asked “what’s gluten free” and not only did I not get blank stares (like at Sephora) but I had a SA who was able to direct me to certain brands and give me the companies book detailing what was safe and what wasn’t. Amazing, and this is a service Sephora can’t boast.

I love sephora but am open for change. That being said, my friend encouraged me to try Ulta on Walnut street in Philly. For whatever reason, their store is ALWAYS in the sunlight and uncomfortably hot. Plus, it reeks of perfume and the SA are not particularly proactive. It’s those little things that want me to take my business elsewhere

We don’t live near an Ulta now but, when we did, I really didn’t enjoy shopping there. It was difficult to find the things I was interested in, disorganized, and lacked any… personality (if that makes sense).

I have (painfully) shopped Ulta online. It’s so difficult for me to find the things I’m interested in. The shipping takes forever and if I order shampoos or conditioners, there is a 50/50 chance they will have leaked in the box. The biggest frustration with shopping with them online is the site likes to dump my cart if I’m inactive for while. I don’t know how many times I’ve placed 10+ items in my cart then taken a phone call only to return to an empty basket. When that happens, I don’t bother trying to shop there any further, I just go to another website (Sephora/Beauty.com).

I have never been to an Ulta store: I just shop the website. I agree that the range of low to high-end products is great, but the shipping takes forever! I like their coupons (although there are so many things you can’t use them for) and the reward system, but I wish they gave more choice in samples like Sephora.

I have 2 Ulta’s in my area and both are gorgeous. The stores are always clean and the staff is friendly. I do have issues with low stock regarding products like NYX, Essence, and Too Faced some times. I always enjoy visiting the stores. As for Sephora the store is in JCPenney, ridiculously small, dirty, and the staff sucks. For brick and mortar store I will pick Ulta hands down.

Online is a whole new ball game. Sephora is amazing online and Ulta is just meh.

I haven’t shopped much with Ulta online, but their store is another story. The drug store area is often poorly stocked and many of the products have been tampered with. Now I know this isn’t a direct Ulta problem, it’s a customer (well, mom’s not watching their young daughters problem) in all honesty – seen in many, many times.

Their high end side is usually better, but again – their testers look awful and it’s hard to determine if I’d buy an item unless I already know it’s good. Love Ulta’s reward system though.

Monica.

I shop there several times a year for smaller ticket items such as polishes and from lines such as NYX and Revlon. I have found of late – they do not have the wide selection of shades as my local CVS or Wegmans. I also find they are overpriced. I also prefer the rewards program for Sephora.

No rave possible, as Ulta doesn’t ship outside the USA and I’ve not set foot in one during any of my trips to the States.

I’ve never had a problem with their shipping except for having to pay for it! They very rarely offer free shipping and I’m just not inclined to spend $50 to get free shipping. I do have Platinum status on their rewards system so I wish free shipping was one of the perks. I even went as far as to email them them about it. They should really take a leaflet out of Sephora’s handbook on the shipping subject.

I love the convenience of having drugstore and high end in one place, but they seem to always be out of stock of something. I don’t like how uneducated the employees are about makeup (it could just be the one by me). I feel like the girls at Sephora know all the ins and outs and if you ask for a recommendation, they are actually helpful! Back when I the Maybelline Baby Skin came out, I was looking around the drugstore side for it but got sick of looking so went to browse the high end side of the shop. While looking at the high end stuff, an employee asked if I needed anything, so I asked about the Baby Skin Primer and she said with an attitude, “Oh, that would be on the drugstore side.” So I followed her back to the DS side and she asks, “Are you talking about the Baby Lips?” UHH.. NO. I’m talking about the primer that everyone in the makeup community has been talking about, how have you not heard of it when you work at a makeup store?!

Another time, I heard an employee helping another customer, it was an older woman, shopping for her daughter for Christmas and she didn’t know much about makeup. She asked the employee to check to see if they had another Lorac PRO palette in the back, and as the girl was walking away to check, the customer added, “Oh! And can you check for the Lorac MEGA PRO palette?” and the employee goes, “I will!” Again, this was when the palette was EVERYWHERE and was selling out left and right. Yet this makeup store employee wasn’t aware that the palette wasn’t sold in Ulta but was exclusive to Amazon and Lorac.com???

I’m very interested in the It Brushes for Ulta & I would like to see them in person before purchasing. Well, my Ulta only had 3 of the brushes for display so I asked when they would be getting them in & was told that their store was not slated for a full display. What??? Is it so difficult to put up a brush display like MAC has with the brush heads in the rotating display case so patrons could see the size of the brush heads & feel them? So, I’ll probably order them next 20%-off sale &, unfortunately for Ulta, I’ll be returning all that I don’t want. There are about 3 brushes don’t think I would want, but, hey, I want to just see them. Why can’t they send the returned brushes to the store to be put on display since they can’t be resold anyway. And the way they put the tester brushes out stinks — attached an immovable piece of lucite that you have to get down on your honkers since the brush displays are from 3 feet down to the floor.

I love the variety at Ulta. I only have a small Sephora in my area so having a few more options at Ulta is great. The worse part is finding products that have been opened or used. I just bought a Tarte gel liner, got it home and found it had been used a few times already. Now I check everything before I purchase.

Oh boy. I have serious problems with Ulta. They have the worst customer servie I have ever encountered. ANYWHERE. Every single time, every location, I have had a poor experience. They are always out of the millions of promos they are running (but they still leave the signs up of course). The lines are always long. The sales associates are generally unknowledgable, and can almost never be found when you need one. The one time I got so frustrated that I spoke to a manager, she was unbelievably rude and dismissive. I’ve woked in retail! There’s no excuse! The stores are usually pretty messy and gross. Also their website is almost unusable. Yet I was platinum by the first couple months of the year because they have a good rewards program.

I go to Ulta a lot since Sephora is about 45 minutes away, and Ulta is the only place near me where I can get brands like Too Faced, Benefit, Smashbox, etc, and I like to peruse the drugstore section too (nyx, essence) but it’s always a mess. The products in the drugstore section are always picked at to death, and things are ALWAYS out of stock and in the wrong place. Also, I find that the sales staff is really unpleasant. One girl made a comment about how I come in every day (really only onces a week) and it was just rude, and now I feel uncomfortable coming in there again. Browsing seems to be discouraged, which is a shame, because i prefer browsing, going home and mulling it over before I decide to purchase something a few days later. They also REALLY need to fix their website it looks so sloppy and unprofessional.

I like the structure of Ulta’s rewards program; however, the level of service I have received at their stores has been inconsistent and often non-existent. I also find some of my favorite inexpensive brands are often out of stock or not available in store (online only, though the site doesn’t indicate that)–I’m looking at you, NYX!

I haven’t had problems with Ulta shipping so far. However, they finally did put a store near town so I’ve been using their salon services. My only rant so far is that they expect you to book your next appointment when you get your hair serviced and most of the time it is way sooner than I need it serviced. If you don’t have an appointment they hound you till you make one. I prefer to call when I’m ready for an appointment. They don’t have a lot of brand lines stocked like Becca, Clinique, Lancome. They have partial stocks of many make up lines and are very slow to restock products that run out I do love their reward system better than Sephora. I think makeup companies probably offer better incentives to Ulta and department stores than they do for Sephora.

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