PARIS — Sephora has unveiled details of the first phase of its reentry into the U.K. market.
“After many rumors, Sephora is finally coming to the U.K.,” said Sylvie Moreau, the retailer’s president of Europe and the Middle East.
On Oct. 17, Feelunique.com, which Sephora acquired one year ago, will be transformed into sephora.co.uk. That will have all the associated codes, including the beauty retailer’s signature black-and-white stripes. The website will be twinned with Sephora’s application in the U.K., as well.
Beauty brands available on the platform are to include numerous exclusive to the country, including Tarte Cosmetics, Ilia, Makeup by Mario, One/Size by Patrick Starrr, Gxve by Gwen Stefani, Skinfix and Vegamour, plus Sephora’s private-label line.
Premium beauty brands on offer are to comprise Pat McGrath Labs, Fenty Beauty, Gisou, Rose Inc, JVN and Glow Recipe, among others.
In phase two, a Sephora brick-and-mortar store is set to open in the U.K. in a yet-to-be disclosed location in London, in March 2023.
That news confirms a report published by WWD on Aug. 23.
“At Sephora, we innovate every day to build the most loved beauty community. We are delighted to bring Sephora to the U.K., responding to Britain’s strong demand for our unique prestige beauty experience,” said Chris de Lapuente, chairman and chief executive officer of Sephora, in a statement. “U.K. customers will be encouraged to explore and discover the best versions of themselves as we support them in their beauty journey with a fantastic curation of time-tested classics and new indie brands.
“We will offer British consumers a pioneering selection of beauty that is best in class for innovation, diversity and inclusion,” he continued. “The U.K. is home to a dynamic beauty and well-being market that Sephora will aim to surprise and delight through our trademark know-how and creativity. Our passionate team cannot wait to serve and inspire U.K. customers under the Sephora brand.”
Taking on the U.K. is not for the faint of heart, said Moreau, speaking during a press conference held mostly for journalists from the U.K. at the retailer’s headquarters in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, a Paris suburb, in early September.
“We come to the U.K. very humbly,” she said. ”It has one of the most engaged, experienced consumer. It’s a big battleground.”
This isn’t Sephora’s first foray into the U.K. The retailer opened its debut store there in 2000 in Kent’s Bluewater shopping center, then opened nine doors overall. In 2005, those were all shuttered, unable to break through amid intense competition from Boots and others.
But the beauty landscape has changed subsequently, as has Sephora’s muscle.
“It’s precisely that Sephora is a brand itself that we could succeed in different continents,” said Moreau, who underlined that last year, Sephora was the only multibrand retailer to make the top 100 ranking of best global brands for 2021, compiled by Interbrand.
“The second strategic choice is we believe in stores,” she continued, adding those are what drive the strongest point of difference. “The store is our social hub.”
In 2021, Sephora opened more than 300 stores, primarily in China, the Middle East and U.S., in Kohl’s.
“They will always be the purest expression of our brand,” said Moreau, of brick-and-mortar, adding: “Of course, we embrace e-commerce since 1999.”
And that digital drive keeps amplifying. In June 2021, for instance, Sephora and Zalando announced they signed a long-term strategic partnership to create a prestige beauty experience online, beginning in Germany.
“Fundamentally, our strategic choice is omnichannel excellence,” continued Moreau, adding the key is combing the best of both worlds — brick-and-mortar and e-commerce.
Sephora has more than 5 million visits per day in its stores and websites combined, and 165 million consumers have a Sephora loyalty card.
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“So, it’s like the whole population of France, the U.K. and Canada combined,” Moreau said. “We strongly connect with this community.”
Overall, Sephora is in 36 countries, with about 3,000 sales points. The retailer has a workforce of 36,000 people, of which 25,000 are beauty advisers.
Moreau said the Sephora and Feelunique teams have been cocreating a strategic plan.
The idea behind Sephora acquiring Feelunique was to not start from scratch in the U.K., where the platform already has a reach of 1.3 million customers and been successfully serving them, continued Moreau.
Feelunique ships about 80,000 products per day.
Combined, such elements “make our chances of success way higher” in the U.K., she said. “[Feelunique] has a huge experience of leading beauty [there].”
Moreau described the Feelunique team as being “like-minded people.”
“Culture in mergers and acquisitions is a big criteria for success, and we could feel it from day one,” she said.
The launch of sephora.co.uk has been timed for the all-important end-of-year holiday season, and is meant to give the message that Sephora is present for all U.K. consumers, according to Moreau.
“It’s going to be very similar in look and feel to the Sephora Europe sites,” she said. “But Feelunique has wonderful digital capabilities, and proprietary tricks, so we’ve actually rescaled their backbone. And that is an example of the best of both.”
Feelunique’s loyalty program will be rebranded, too, into Sephora.
To help celebrate Sephora’s arrival in the U.K., the retailer will hold an immersive prestige beauty event on Oct. 20 at One Marylebone London. It is to include a brand fair, masterclasses, beauty talks and surprise guests, the retailer said. Tickets for it are to be available starting Oct. 11, with details to come about that on Sephora U.K.’s Instagram account.
Moreau said after the London store opening, Sephora, “over the years, gradually, surely, steadily but prudently, as well, [will] extend [its] wings in the U.K.”