Sephora’s reopening offers a glimpse into pandemic-era beauty retail
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Sephora will begin reopening its stores in 13 states Friday. The company is known for its hands-on in-store experience — you get to try on the makeup or have your eyebrows done. And its plan for reopening, which includes a long list of precautions and procedures, gives us a glimpse into how beauty retailers will adapt in this era.
When you go to Sephora, it really is an experience. At the door you’re hit with the — some might say overwhelming — scent of perfume. Then you see the makeup-testing stations, with disposable cotton balls and mascara wands. You can dip your fingers in a pot of foundation to see if the color works for you.
Aaron Patterson is 35 and lives in Baltimore. He said he loves Sephora.
“There are always customer reps walking around, asking you, do you need help with anything?” Patterson said. “They tell you if your skin is dry or oily. They have recommendations for you to use as far as facial cleaners.”
He’s even gotten a facial at the store, one of the many services it offers.
All of this is intentional. Sephora, like other retailers, has leaned into the whole experiential retail thing.
“A store has to be just as exciting or more exciting to shop as online is easy to shop,” said Tiffany Hogan, a principal analyst at Kantar. “You need to have a reason for shoppers to come to your stores, instead of just selling a commoditized product, as it can be viewed, for beauty particularly.”
So what happens now? Sephora says testers are going to be display-only. And there will be no in-store makeup applications or facials. Which means fewer chances to recommend products and make sales.
Hogan said Sephora and other beauty retailers are going to try to fill in the gaps with things like individually wrapped samples and “augmented reality.” Sephora has an app that lets you see how a certain lipstick or eyeliner would look on your face.
“It’s surprisingly realistic,” Hogan said. “Even with mascara, you can tell here’s the kind of volume you’re gonna get, here’s the length you might get.”
It’s not the same, but nothing is right now. Hogan said customers will probably come back to stores even without the hands-on experience. Because they’re kind of stir-crazy.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
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