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Sephora is reentering the UK market, with hopes that a refreshed strategy and focus on e-commerce will make this try a success for the LVMH-owned beauty retailer.
Though it’s a category leader in other parts of the world, the UK has been a void for the retailer, which is known for its mix of masstige and high-end beauty brands, some exclusively sold through Sephora, as well as its ability to put indie brands including Drunk Elephant, Saie and Summer Fridays on the map.
To reenter the market, Sephora purchased British online retailer Feelunique for an undisclosed sum in 2021. On 17 October, Feelunique’s website will become Sephora.co.uk. That gives Sephora a leg up in the local market: Feelunique, which launched in 2005, counts 1.3 million active customers. Upon the Sephora takeover, Feelunique’s reward programme will stay in place, but will be renamed, with customers receiving £5 off for every £75 spent, as well as other benefits. Sephora will be bringing its eponymous own brand, Sephora Collection, as well as Tarte Cosmetics, Skinfix, Ilia, One/Size by Patrick Starrr and Gxve (pronounced “Give”) by Gwen Stefani amongst others, all of which are unavailable in the UK currently.
Sephora first made its debut in the UK in 2000, with nine stores opening throughout the country. However, by 2005, the company had exited (a spokesperson declined to comment on why). Sephora then offered shipping to the UK from the US starting in 2014, however, this wound down in 2018 following the complications of the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rollout in the European Union, which at the time included the UK. Rumours of a transatlantic comeback have circulated for years.
Sephora currently has over 3,000 stores in 36 countries across the world, including mainland Europe and Asia, and invested $7.5 million in new stores in Mexico in 2021.
However, there’s stiff competition in the UK. Walgreens-owned chain Boots claims that its market share is above 40 per cent for skin, makeup and premium beauty, with beauty making up 50 per cent of sales on Boots.com, having grown 125 per cent in the last two years. Boots has increased its offering of premium brands in the last few years, adding Mac, Nars and Anastasia Beverly Hills, as well as Kylie Cosmetics. Competition also exists in the form of luxury retailer Space NK and e-tailer Cult Beauty, among others.