SEPHORA SET TO OPEN FIRST STORE IN BRITAIN

Byline: James Fallon / Jennifer Weil

LONDON — Sephora, the French perfumery chain owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, will open its first store in Britain at the end of April in the Bluewater Mall in Kent.
The opening of the 4,000-square-foot store will trigger the retailer’s rollout program in the U.K. A company official at Sephora’s Paris headquarters said that openings of four more stores will follow by the end of this year. These are expected to include a site in central London.
A spokeswoman for the retailer in London declined to reveal the locations of the other stores.
Sephora announced plans to enter the British market last August, with predictions it could open up to 50 stores within the next few years. But its timetable may have proved to be too aggressive since it originally expected to open its first store by the end of 1999.
Industry executives have predicted for months that Sephora was due to open a flagship store in London’s Regent Street. Many expressed surprise that the first unit was opening in the Bluewater Mall, about an hour’s drive from central London.
But the mall, Europe’s largest, is a major shopping attraction. The Sephora store will be on the mall’s second level and will be located between a large Boots the Chemist store and a Marks & Spencer. Other beauty retailers in the mall include Lush and Space NK.
In entering the U.K., Sephora is taking on its former parent Boots, which dominates the British beauty market with a 30 percent share. Boots sold the then-loss-making Sephora to LVMH in 1997 in order to focus on its core U.K. market. It recently has begun expanding outside the U.K. again by opening stores selling beauty, personal care and over-the-counter medicines in Continental Europe and the Far East.
Boots operates 1,378 stores in the U.K., and its larger stores can be up to 25,000 square feet in size. While its stores have been considered less cutting-edge than those of Sephora, Boots recently has begun experimenting with new store formats and services. These include a Boots Men format focusing only on men’s beauty and treatment as well as stores offering nail care and facials.

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