Sephora versus Ulta

I’m sorry I’ve been gone a while but I have been ill and not really “chatty”, any who, I’m BAAAAACCCKKKK.

Something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while is the Sephora VS Ulta debate, which one is better? Where can I can my money’s worth?

Well kitten, it all depends on what you are looking for: we will discuss merchandise, rewards programs, online experience and coupons in these order at the end I will give you my personal opinion.

Let’s start with the goodies! Sephora carries a variety of high end products except for Chanel, Armani and another couple of brands I can’t remember ( this is make up wise). Their store line offers comparable products for a slightly lower price; they also offer great customer assistance, make overs and a computerized method for identifying your perfect foundation shade. In addition to this if you happen to stop to the store and they are out of the item you were looking for they will order it for you and deliver it to your home.

Ulta offers a variety of Drug store make up including: Essence, Kardashian’s Beauty, Jane, Maybelline and higher end cosmetics like: Tarte, Two Faced, and Urban Decay. Said this do not expect the truly High end brands to be present in this store, you will not find YSL or Dior. Ulta caters to the tier that can afford more expensive brands but not luxury ones. I can’t really speak for customer service because my store offers none, the associates are often absent from the counters and when you ask them for help they really don’t know any more than you or I. Also, selected stores offer hair and beauty services such as: hair extensions, waxing, facials etc.

Time to reap the rewards! Both retailers offer incentives to their “repeat offenders”, both are divided in tiers according to the money spent in a twelve month period, both offer some sort of birthday present.

Sephora offers a Beauty Insider program where you can accumulate points with every purchase. This program has three tiers: the beauty insider which earns a point for every dollar spent, a birthday gift, free beauty classes, product rewards and seasonal promotions; then you have the VIB (very important beauty insider with a $350.00 total purchase a year) which receives all the first tier receives plus special gifts and offers, first dibs on products, advance access to sales and private VIB shopping events. Finally we have VIB Rouge (also known as OMG I have not spent all that money! ($ 1000.00)) Which offers all the previous perks plus: free shipping on everything, special surprise gifts, unlimited access to the beauty studio and exclusive Rouge events. What do you get with you reward points? Usually it’s a deluxe sample of your choice or if you redeem 500 points a special kit with deluxe samples, the prizes change almost every month so it’s rare to get the same reward twice. During the winter I received an Ole Henriksen kit featuring 5 deluxe/ travel size products that I truly enjoyed.

Let’s talk about the Ulta reward program! They offer a similar program to Sephora but theirs is divided in two tiers according to the total amount spent in a year. The first tier earns a point for every dollar spent, the points are good for one year, on your birthday they will double your points and give you a CK mascara plus you get their ad/book with a coupon or two in it. The Platinum tier earn 1.25 points per dollar spent, their points never expire and get a slightly better birthday present. For both tiers the points earned can be redeemed for either services or used for a purchase.

Online experience and coupons. Let’s begin by saying that the only coupon you will use in Sephora is their 20% off either an item or the purchase, now this coupon is good on anything in store and online, including luxury brands. Their online site is easy to navigate, and their shipping is good. I have never had a problem with them when I ordered online, my merchandise was always very well wrapped and it never took more than three days to receive it.

In Ulta you can use manufacturer coupons and combine them with their sale but if you think you can use their 20% off the entire purchase on that U.D. 3 palette or Tarte cheek stain you are sorely mistaken! Most High end items will be excluded from coupons rendering that lovely 20% just a joke, unless you want to use it on drug store make up of some nail polishes. Their online site is pretty friendly but prone to hick ups where items will disappear from your basket or God forbid you want to check out as a guest you will be charged twice, they will change your shipping to the most expensive one and if you dare call they’ll tell you it will take them at least two weeks to perform a refund (all personal experience, it also happened when I tried to pay with PayPal). On multiple occasions I had broken items or not very well packaged things with them so I tend not to shop there much.

As you can probably tell I am not very fond of Ulta, I love the idea of having easy access to drug store make up and high end at the same time but I just can’t justify buying much there even with their coupons; there’s no point for me to go there with a 20% the entire purchase if I can’t use it on the higher end brands or perfumes, if I want a good deal on drug store make up I usually go to Walgreens or CVS.

On the other hand I enjoy Sephora quite a bit, part of me wishes they would let us redeem points for in store credit but I guess I can’t complain too loudly because they let me use my 20% on YSL and U.D.

There’s also the atmosphere difference, when you walk in Sephora you are usually greeted by someone and they ask you if you need anything, their store is usually clean and organized and they don’t sale make up that’s been mangled! In Ulta I can’t ever see an associate willing to help and when I find one she usually doesn’t know how to help, there’s also the clutter and unkempt feeling of the store that really doesn’t make you want to shop and I’ve had the bad luck of purchasing a couple of palettes that had been returned, not checked, resealed and sold full price to me that had clear indentations in the eye shadows and the brush was dirty. When I called the store and e-mailed them the pictures they just shrugged and did nothing, this particular item was an Anastasia eye brow kit/palette for $48.00 not a Wet & Wild trio and still they couldn’t bother to check the item prior to resealing it and selling it as new.

So here’s my two bits on these two make up retailers, let me know about your experiences!!