Sephora and Mecca Maxima

Being a bit of a nerd and a beauty enthusiast, one of the things I get most excited about whilst travelling is checking out the foreign beauty stores. I have seen so many bloggers do Sephora hauls and I had never even been into a store until this year, let alone the US ones which are widely felt to be the holy grail of beauty stores. So naturally my friends and I wanted to make sure that we got the full Sephora experience so before we’d even left the UK my friend Emily had booked makeovers for us in the Venetian Sephora. It cost $50 but this was redeemable on products. I had my makeup done by a lady called Claudia who created a smokey eye and red matte lip look. It was a very heavy look but it was the perfect I’m in Vegas and going clubbing on a Friday night face.

What I liked about the experience was that Claudia used products from a range of different brands. We have brilliant concessions in department stores in the UK, we have Boots, we have SpaceNK but you tend to have to pick a brand and go to a concession. I’ve never been very brand loyal and always want to try bits of everything so that’s why a makeover with multiple brands appealed to me. They also sell a lot of brands that you can get in the UK but not all in one place. For me, Sephora is a one stop shop for all the best brands around for fragrance (including the 10 ml rollerball which is perfect for travelling), skin care, hair as well as makeup, they do a beauty insider account where you can collect and redeem points (for prizes!) and they have the mini section of doom (I didn’t coin that phrase but it’s so accurate!). These are positioned by the till, kindly giving you the opportunity to try things in a smaller size but inevitably making you spend more money. I obviously did some spending (not as much as I would have done if I was on holiday) and below I’ll show you what I bought.

As the time has gone on whilst I’ve been travelling my skin has been playing up – probably a combination of my lack of usual skin care routine, eating less healthily, the extra glasses of wine etc and they all seem to be taking their toll on my skin which has been a bit red and spotty. I didn’t bring a full coverage foundation with me and regretted it so whilst in Australia I decided to invest in something new. But where to go?

The choice of beauty products and brands in Australia is more limited than in the US, the U.K. and Europe. It’s more expensive to buy international brands out here and although there’s some local brands to choose from there’s not the abundance of choice both in-store and online. Australia has department stores Myer and David Jones (the equivalent of Debenhams and House of Fraser), they have their own sort of Space NK/ Sephora esque shop called Mecca Maxima/ Cosmetica but when it was announced that Sephora was coming over here in 2014 there was much excitement and huge crowds outside the shiny new Pitt Street store. Sephora had promised to be matching US prices (taking into account shipping etc). However Sephora shot themselves in the foot here because when they opened it was clear that prices were much more expensive than the US ones, between 10 and 60% in some cases both for Sephora own brand and international brands (some speculate it’s due to the price of rent). On top of that Sephora Australia was blocking the US site so consumers couldn’t compare the two, which was very naughty and did not go down well. Cue social media melt down and disappointment all round. To make things worse, looking at the reviews of the Melbourne store they aren’t good at all. Customer service comes under a lot of criticism with people feeling ignored or undermined and personally just walking past the store with its burly security guards and lack of staff at the door to greet, it didn’t look very welcoming. There’s nothing worse than a beauty counter where you feel like the staff look down on you or make you feel uncomfortable, going into these stores can be a little overwhelming and therefore engaging with someone who takes an interest can make a massive difference.

So Sephora over here just didn’t give me that feeling of excitement that I had in Vegas. Hence why I decided to support the local business and visit Mecca Maxima in Melbourne Central instead. It’s set up and design is a SpaceNK Sephora hybrid with a fair amount of mid range to premium brands and they also have the minis by the till. They also have super friendly and helpful staff, makeup enthusiasts who really want to provide the best customer service they can. I walked out a happy girl with a tester pot of foundation and a new concealer and went back a few days later to buy the full size. I did ask the staff how they had felt about a large Sephora shop opening just above Mecca (Phil said that was an awkward question but I was interested!) and the girl I was chatting to said it hadn’t really affected them as both stores were helping to increase Aussie women’s beauty appetites and that a new Mecca store had opened to huge queues too. Plus the Melbourne Sephora was known for its surly unhelpful staff so Mecca had stayed busy despite being the less well known brand.

Sephora is said to be coming back to the UK after a failed attempt to penetrate the market years ago. Like there was in Australia there will be so much excitement and build up but I do wonder what brands it will bring over and how they will decide to price everything (with the pound as it is, it’s anyone’s guess!). With so much competition both in-store and online it’ll take something special to make it into the cult US store that I found in Vegas…

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