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1. Brand Variety – no two Sephora stores are the same (only one of the three that I go to with any regularity carry Ardency Inn, for example.)

2. Return Policy – I rarely return, but when I really feel like I need to, I want to know that I can.

3. Exclusives – Knowing that the store will have something that someone else won’t may help me decide where I go to make that purchase!

1.) Selection
2.) Testers and lots of them!
3.) Loyalty Programs (get a free product if you spend $X or something like that) or seasonal discounts for loyal shoppers

In no particular order…
Courteous and knowledge staff if it’s a store — if online then reasonable shipping rates.
Good return policy
Regularly stocked

1. Loyalty/points programs: I specifically shop at Sephora/Ulta instead of brands’ websites for this reason.
2: Frequent sales/coupons/discounts: Because I’m frugal…-ish.
3. Variety of brands, and full ranges: Hate it when a brand’s full range isn’t represented by a retailer.

Customer service, product quality, and shipping costs. I don’t mind waiting a long time as long as I know what I should expect, but nothing turns me off more than bad customer service.

I almost exclusively shop online so free/fast shipping is a big one. A big variety of products and exclusive kits are always fun. I also like it when things are regularly stocked, like right now I feel like I’ve been waiting forever on a product from Sephora to come back in. It’s driving me nuts and I might just move on.

Availability (stores nearby to visit and an online site), great customer service, customer rewards program

1) Free delivery/shipping everywhere does free shipping so I don’t get why others still charge ¬.¬.
2) Good quality products goes without saying really.
3) Generously sized product.

Variety, especially in-store. I hate it when a brand only has a few products available to see in person while the rest are on-line only.


Good lighting. The biggest gripe I have with Sephora is having to swatch on the back of my hand and then walk out into the mall to see it properly. Department stores and drug stores on the other hand are nice and bright.

I agree with the lighting issue. I really wish that Sephora would go into locations where there was an external entrance/exit so you could see in natural light!

Too bloody true about big S lighting! Hourglass all looks livid, like funeral home makeup. ALPs all looked unwearable, but they have been hugely popular. Esp bad, if you can’t dislodge the product from the tester + you can only judge under sickly yellowy fluorescents. I don’t think I ever got a French (Chanel, YSL, Givenchy @ S, because the GLARE makes them look cheap. (+ used to do them a lot at Bloomie’s, before Nordie’s was in my area.) Mirrory packages give you eyestrain under their lighting, flash on my glasses + make me look away + take glasses off. All in all, the older I get, the worse S gets + the less likely I am to put up w/ it. But, we put up w/them for the bennies + variety. BTW, they never have full NARS + others, like Barney’s, Bluemercury, Nordie’s, Saks, Nieman’s. And they replicate lots of the dept store brands, Clinique, Lancome, etc. Didn’t do that, when they were only in Boston, not suburban…lots of fun niche brands from abroad. it was an adventure then… And my local ‘burban S is usually feeeelthy, like seagulls have been at the testers. If I know I like s.t., I’m as likely to order it, so as to avoid that dreadful mall store. I also get at least one broken item per haul + they get PISSED, if I check it out before I buy. Gotta go back now, ’cause the ALB mood exposure is broken. Usually can only cope w/ S, when the new collections come out. U, by contrast, is cleaner, better tended, + the SAs are much more pleasant.

Online retailers: selection, shipping, return policy, and customer service if I need it (OK, so that’s 4!)

Actual stores: friendly, courteous, helpful but non-intrusive staff; lots of opportunity to test out products in a hygienic fashion; a generous sampling and return policy; wide selection; and keeping things in stock (OK, so that’s 5, but I tried to rank them in order of importance).

Seriously, my closest Sephora used to be *so* friendly, I only went there once a month but everyone remembered me and gave me great advice. Now some of the staff come across as suspicious when I ask for samples or even borderline rude when I ask for help or advice, and I spend enough $$ there to have their VIB Rouge level! So even though I love Sephora’s sampling policy, I’m inclined to spend more at my local Ulta, where everyone says hello even if i just walk through.

1. Fast shipping and handling! Don’t you just hate it when you order something on Monday morning, select 2-3 day shipping thinking you’ll at least have it by Friday, and then receive an email on Thursday afternoon saying “good news, your order shipped today”. Few things pisses me off more.

2. Different payment options. They have to accept non-US credit cards, PayPal is a huge plus (not the “we don’t accept international PayPal accounts”-crap) and the checkout process should be as fast and simple as possible.

3. Large variety of brands and it’s also important that they have all of the products/shades that those brands offer (in stock).

I just have to share here that i am impressed with Sephora and Nordstrom and not at all a fan of Ulta. All of my future business will remain with Sephora and Nordstrom!!!

I spent thousands of dollars at Ulta and yes i made some returns to the store of things i ordered online and didn’t like when they arrived etc. The last time i went to Ulta to make a purchase I was told that my account was “flagged” and that the store manager said i was no longer welcome to return anything in their store – ever. I wrote to Ulta customer service and they advised the store manager had made this decision and there was nothing they could do. I have vowed to NEVER AGAIN set foot in an Ulta store or order anything from them online as well.

Variety; I like places like Ulta or Sephora where there are tons of brands to choose from and not all sephoras are the same <3

Samples/Open Swatches; Especially for foundations and lipsticks omg. <3 I love being able to swatch.

Customer Service/Returns; cause sometimes things don't work out and have to be sent back D; I really really like it when they pay for the return shipping and reply back to the customer service ticket within 24 hours of being started. Cause even when the product wasn't up to expectations, the customer service will bring me back always. I had my first crap customer service experience with sugarpill and I'm hella bummed 🙁 Cause I don't trust to order from them again D; unless they start stocking in ulta or sephora haha. Customer service is everythinnnnng to me now.

The top three things I look for in a beauty retailer is:
1. A wide variety of products and ranges (we rarely get this in Australia – only some products of a given range – very annoying)
2.Friendly, helpful and trained staff
3. Wide isles and well designed environment.

1. Helpful, friendly staff that aren’t pushy, but obviously really, genuinely like the product they’re selling.

2. Clean testers/displays. I can’t stand it when everything is mashed up and dirty. I don’t usually use testers anywhere but *maybe* on my hand, but there’s no way I’m going near the counter if the stuff is all manky.

3. A variety of brands. It’s great if you don’t have to go to 5 different stores!

1. Customer service – helpful and friendly employees and a generous return policy
2. Product knowledge – employees who know products well and don’t sell items just because they are on commission or the item is trendy at the moment
3. Online experience – free shipping, helpful customer reviews, option to check if an item is available in a store near me

Incidentally, has anyone experienced difficulty to returning to Sephora lately? It was my understanding that they had a very open return policy and that they pride themselves on customer service, but the last two times I’ve tried to return an item (many months apart), the store manager gave me a hard time, scrutinized my return products, and hassled me about the fact that I was returning something. I had the receipts and the products were purchased recently. I do not at all frequently return items, so I don’t believe it was a personal issue. I wondered if Sephora is changing it’s approach to returns or if it was just that particular store.

My guess is that too many have taken advantage of the return policy, and Sephora is losing more money than the policy is worth. Many other retailers only lightened up on returns when Sephora was so easy, but I’m guessing they will become more stringent in the future, as they won’t have to compete anymore.

Carries a vast range within a given brand, has unique brands not found at other stores/counters, and actually has product in stock. These are also the 3 top reasons Sephora has lost much of my business…

The return policy is very important to me; Sephora and Ulta have great return policies which I’ve used in the past, and there were no problems encountered at all!

Exclusives and limited editions, such as those with Urban Decay and Kat Von D.

Availability of products, especially tried and true favorites!

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