Sephora Celebrates 25 Years In The USA

Sephora, the French global retailer of beauty products, was founded in 1969. It now sells a huge assortment of color cosmetics, skincare, body fragrances, nail color and much more. In total, there are nearly 340 brands including its own label called Sephora Collection. Many of the leading brands loved by consumers are sold by Sephora.

Sephora was founded in Limoges, France and is now headquartered in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. From those French roots, the company eventually expanded globally. The first store was opened in Paris in 1970. It wasn’t until 1998 that the first U.S. store opened in New York City at 555 Broadway. The company was initially run by its founder, Dominique Mandonnauud, before it was acquired by LVMH in 1997. That was just a year before the New York store was opened. Today Sephora is in 35 countries world-wide with more than 2,700 stores. And, a standard of high quality service matches the quality of the product line across all of these locations.

Sephora’s name comes from the Greek word meaning beauty; sephos, and the Greek spelling of Zipporah (Greek Sepphora) wife of Moses.

Since its launch in the U.S. 25 years ago, Sephora management has been busy; their leadership has consistently executed a thoughtful growth strategy. Some of the highlights of Sephora’s 25 years in the United States include:

After opening the first store in 1998, Sephora.com was live a year after on October 14, 1999. The first catalogue soon followed and was published in 2000. By 2005, 100 stores were opened and a year later, in 2006 Sephora opened its first store in JCPenney. Before that partnership broke up, 667 Sephora departments were in JCPenney stores. The 300th U.S. store was opened in Las Vegas in 2011.

New brands have been consistently added to the assortment. Some recent launches include Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Armani Beauty, Kayali fragrances, and Floral Street. There will be a new partnership with Zappas, which will debut in early summer.

In 2020, Sephora and Kohl’s announced a long-term partnership. By the end of 2023, there will be 850 Sephora departments in Kohl’s. Additional units have been announced for the next three years; some of these units will be smaller than the 2,500 square foot units that will be completed by the end of this year. There is an advantage for both partners in this agreement. For Sephora it means greater customer penetration in suburban areas; for Kohl’s it means greater youthful shopper traffic, since Sephora has a strong youthful following. It is a win for both companies.

Sephora was the first major retailer to take the 15% pledge in 2020. This pledge commits Sephora to have 15 percent of the assortment in black-owned brands. The company carried 340 brands when making this pledge so that pledge reflects a large commitment. Among the black brands are Fenty Fragrances, EADEM, and many others.

POSTSCRIPT: I saw the first Sephora unit on Broadway when it opened, then I saw the first JCPenney Sephora department when it launched, and I wrote about the first Kohl’s Sephora opening. I believe Sephora is innovative with new products. It is a great company with world-wide sales in 2022 of $10 billion and a great asset for LVMH.

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