If you are anything like me—which you probably are because you are reading this article—you are likely obsessed with Sephora.
You have fond memories of going to the mall and trying out all the newest trends or collecting your free birthday gift. Whatever it may be, those signature stripes really got your heart!
Personally, I love Sephora. There is nothing like coming home with a bag full of goodies, free samples and a makeover! I see it as a little escape to paradise where I can treat myself once every few months.
When I knew I would be moving abroad to England, I was a bit worried because they don’t yet have Sephora. How could I live?! My solution was to do a giant stock-up before leaving the States.
Thankfully, now, I live in France and they do have Sephora, but it is different from that in the US and I actually prefer it.
The Differences Between Sephora US and FR
Although Sephora is a makeup chain, there are vast differences between the US and in French markets. Obviously, the French audience is a different clientele to that of the States and this is reflected in the range of products offered as well as in promotions and marketing.
For instance, the Sephora Instagram accounts are already worlds apart and so are the products advertised. As well, I can tell you Sephora France just dropped these “pocket palettes” that they are making a huge fuss over. This format is also available in the States, but the color stories are completely different.
Products and Popularity
The one downside about Sephora France is that the range of brands they stock is significantly less than that available in the US. This is most visible when looking at the scope of perfumes on sale; trending brands such as Maison Margiela, Clean Reserve or Nest New York are not available.
Another drawback is that the French stores seem to take several months (or even years) to obtain certain brands; this was the case with Kat Von D products not too long ago. When they finally began to carry it, it was only online and in select stores.
Thankfully, they are better at releasing (most of) the same items in the French market days after their release in the US. My only complaint is that certain items from brands stocked in both markets are only available in the US stores.
Overall, you have less choice in the French stores.
I believe there is less of a selection in the French stores because Sephora does not seem to be that popular in France. At least, it’s not as popular as it is in the States.
There are more visible competitors here in France. For instance, you have your MACs, but you also have Yves Rocher, Kiko Milano, and all of the “typical” French brands (think: Lancôme, Guerlain or Chanel) whose stores are peppered about.
And then there’s the fact that French women do not really wear a lot of makeup and are not looking for that “beat” look popular in the States and the UK.
Prices in the French market tend to be similar to their US counterparts when converted. Certain items are severely overpriced and others are rather underpriced.
Take for example the Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain in Always Red, in France, it retails for 10.99€ ($13.39) versus $15 in the US (before tax!). As well, the 10-Hour Longwear Foundation retails for 16.99€ ($20.70) in France which is nearly equivalent to the $20 price tag in the US.
Interestingly, not all of the Sephora Collection prices are as competitive; for instance, the Size Up Mascara (newly released in France) retails for 12.99€ ($15.82) whereas it is priced at a steady $12 in the States.
It’s a hit or miss, really.
Price discrepancies are even greater when we look at non-Sephora-brand items. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, I looked at three major brands and chose from their most popular products for comparison.
In France, Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder retails for 44€ ($53.51) versus a much smaller $39 price tag in the US. Even with tax, the cost is far below its French equivalent. Next, I took a look at the cost of the Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Lip Secrets Set which sells for 48€ ($58.48) in France. Shockingly, it is priced at only $45 in the States… So can someone please explain?
Lastly, I looked at the Urban Decay Naked Cherry Palette for comparison. In France, it retails for 52€ ($63.24) whereas it sells for $49 in the US.
In this case, you are typically paying MORE for makeup in the French market than you are in the US.
Much like Sephora USA, Sephora France also offers a rewards program. It is definitely targeted towards their most loyal customers (much like Sephora in the US), but it is more accessible. For instance, Sephora France members pay less to become the equivalent of a “VIB Rouge.” To better clarify the program benefits and compare them with the US program, I created this equivalency chart:
As you can see, the programs are vastly different in their offerings. Generally, the US program has more perks (even for regular customers) and your points can be used to redeem goodies.
Obviously, Sephora France’s program does not work like that at all. Perks seem to be reserved for Gold card members only. Despite this inequivalence, Sephora France’s program does require you to spend less money to obtain Black and Gold status when compared with the US program.
As well, the French requires you to spend less money in order to retain your status.* In fact, because Sephora France counts gift cards towards your points balance, you can easily rack up 700 points spending half that amount (or less).
*When you change status, any extra points you may have do not transfer over. For instance, I reached over 150 points but my Black status began at 0 points.
Sephora France Perks
Now it’s time to talk gifts and goodies.
In the US, we are super spoiled with the ability to browse the Rewards Bazaar to our heart’s content. We also have the choice between four different sets as a free birthday gift each year.
Unfortunately, the French program is not so generous.
In terms of birthday gifts, you receive a predetermined item. Some gifts I have seen are makeup palettes, an eyeshadow trio, lip gloss and a blush duo (as pictured below).
As for the gift every 1000 points, I find it to be akin to the 500/700 points rewards offered in the US Rewards Bazaar. For instance, members are able to choose from a number of sets or items worth about 25€. Some 2020 sets included brands such as Fresh, Tarte, Sephora Collection and Jo Malone. I am not (yet) a Gold member, so I cannot speak about this from experience.
Although the French market does not offer a Rewards Bazaar, you can still profit from three free samples (online or in-store) and online beauty offers to redeem free trial sizes.
Why I Prefer Sephora France
You’ve gotten this far and are probably wondering how in the hell could I prefer Sephora France to Sephora USA?! I know it can be hard to believe after all of the negative things I’ve just said.
BUT it’s true and I will tell you why…
Sephora France’s sales by far outweigh any of those proposed by Sephora USA. As opposed to the US marketplace, Sephora France offers sales and discounts nearly every two months for almost all brands.
The best part? They are for everyone! (no need to be Gold status)
Before Christmas, for instance, the French site offered a “Singles Day” (November 11) event with 20-25% off popular brands. In December, they offered a Holiday Savings event, and just recently, a New Year’s event with 25% off select items (which even included Charlotte Tilbury….)
“Single’s Day” Sales in November with 20% off these makeup brands
(literally ALL products in the brands)
Repeatedly, Sephora France has offered me 25% off either one product or my entire purchase. And as part of the rewards program, I receive a 10% off voucher for every 150€ spent.
In the end, although the conversion rates are not equal, I am consistently paying less by purchasing from Sephora France.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my opinion of Sephora France. Please consider subscribing to new post alerts via the form on the right to keep updated with my life here in France.