Why I Stopped Shopping at Sephora

It’s still a great store for those who love beauty — but I just don’t go there anymore.

As a longtime consumer of premium beauty products, I can say that things have changed quite a bit since I bought my first lipstick.

I remember that day quite well, though — the lipstick was light pink, and it came in a golden case patterned with white flowers. A very feminine-looking item, and one that felt a bit special, like I had a treasure in my purse that I could peer down and look at anytime.

As a teen, I bought makeup at drugstores at first and then at department store counters, but the latter always felt like an uncomfortable family dinner with a salesperson or two invading your personal space to coo over your face and tell you how pretty you are (which is why you need to buy all this makeup, naturally).

But when Sephora  (LVMUY)  opened its doors in the U.S. in 1998 and I walked into my first dedicated luxury beauty retailer, it felt somewhat like stumbling into Alice’s fabled Wonderland, packed with what felt like every high-end beauty brand — and you could try it all on, too! 

But despite many years of shopping at Sephora since, I’ve more or less stopped going there for beauty. I buy most of what I need when I visit my local Target  (TGT) – Get Free Report now. And that’s why I think the retailer is winning the beauty race in a way that no other competitor in the market can touch.

Target’s Clever One-Two Punch

While going to a Sephora in 1998 was the most obvious way for me to purchase the latest Stila lipgloss or Chanel compact foundation, the advent of doorstep delivery services changed the way I thought about buying beauty products — a sentiment millions of other consumers shared.

Target started its mission to transform its beauty department into something different way back in 2017. Before that, its beauty aisles were like that of every other big box store that sold makeup, haircare, and skincare: eye-catching endcaps, but other than that it was just your typical shopping aisles.


Any customer familiar with Sephora and Ulta  (ULTA) – Get Free Report surely noticed that Target’s new floor plan copies many of those retailers’ tricks: wider aisles, better lighting, and most of all, very aesthetically pleasing displays. And with a majority of consumers gravitating toward colorful products as well, it’s no surprise that this remodel drew a lot of folks’ attention.

Target has also continued to nurture this section’s transformation, partnering with big beauty names like Ulta as well as many smaller cult favorite brands like Colourpop to give its beauty department a bespoke, curated feel. It announced the addition of 40 new beauty brands in early 2022 as well.

Why Target’s Beauty Plan Spirited Me Away

As much as I still have big love for the Sephora experience (and yes, I know Sephora does carry brands Target doesn’t), I slowly noticed I was buying substitutes at Target for the items I used to buy at Sephora. Not because I didn’t like those items, but because Target has nailed a perfect cross-section of two things that work well for me: aesthetics and convenience.

In a time where I can have everything from groceries to gifts delivered to my door in under an hour (and yes, Sephora is among my options there), I have much less patience than I once did to find a parking spot at my local mall, traipse inside, and stand in a long line to buy an eyebrow pencil. By getting it from Target, I can knock that out as well as my groceries at the same time, saving me a precious hour to not feel overwhelmed with completing all my errands.

But the magic of it is that Target curated its beauty section to feel like I’ve visited the premier beauty store — because it is one, neatly tucked inside my favorite place to get all my basic shopping done anyway.

It seems I’m far from alone on this. Target chairman and chief executive officer Brian Cornell addressed the success of the business’ efforts in beauty in the company’s Q3 earnings call on November 16.

“In addition to traffic growth, we saw a 1.3% increase in average ticket as guests continue to rely on Target for convenient, reliable one-stop shop. Across our merchandise categories and similar to the second quarter, we saw very strong growth in our frequency businesses, led by double-digit growth in both beauty, and food and beverage,” he said.

Sorry, Sephora — I still love you, but times have changed.

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