FGW: Sephora Vs Ulta: What’s the scoop?

May 13, 2008 at 10:00 pm 9 comments

Until recently, Sephora was the end all and be all for cosmetics stores as far as I was concerned. With the exception of MAC, they carry every major brand that I whole-heartedly love, and a few I only adore. Everything is set up in an easy to to try manner that just begs you to play. Mirrors and all the other accouterments for cosmetics application are placed throughout the store, and there are samples of just about anything your little heart desires.

Ever since they broke into the market they’ve pretty much had it cornered. Everyone wants shelf space at Sephora, and they’re willing to offer exclusive items to get it. With special gift sets and constant specials, as well as incredible perks for insiders, Sephora is THE name in prestige cosmetics, skincare, and fragrance. The clean layout, black and white theme, and helpful staff are consistent and predictable. Their Sephora brand cosmetics are well made and reasonably priced, and they have the perfect red nail polish.

I just recently heard of Ulta and used my last trip to Seattle as an excuse to go check it out. Unlike Sephora, they offer both mass market AND prestige brands of cosmetics. They also have salon and some spa services, like waxing. I was impressed that they offer what appears to be the entire line of Rimmel cosmetics, while other stores carry only the basics. Their selection of prestige lines isn’t quite as extensive as Sephora’s. They do carry Dermablend though, which I was very excited about since I wanted to find something to cover tattoos, but didn’t want the trial and error of ordering online and risking getting the wrong color. Their store brand cosmetics are buy one/get one, though I’ve not been over the moon for them up to this point. They are on par with most other mass market brands though, and they do have a fair selection of products and colors. I can only speak for the one location I visited, but the staff was sparse and less than thrilled with my presence.

The one thing that really sets Ulta apart from Sephora is convenience. If some of your faves are prestige and some are mass market then you have the ease of picking them up at the same time. Need a haircut and some foundation? Ulta’s the way to go. However, you WILL pay for the convenience. For instance, I saved $10 on only 3 items by stopping at Target on the way home. If cost is a concern to you than you’re probably better off going elsewhere, but if you’re running short on time and can only make one stop then Ulta would be your best bet.

We don’t have either an Ulta or a Sephora in our city, so visiting either requires a side trip during vacation. For my time and money, I’m sticking with Sephora.

Looks like Ulta gets the knock down punch from Sephora, ka-pow!

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mo mommy  |  May 13, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Also, if you plan on ordering from Sephora(say perhaps that Sun safety kit) go to http://www.couponheaven.com/ , enter Sephora as the merchant and check out the list of coupon codes for an extra free sample!

  • 2. jen38  |  May 14, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Thanks Mo! Those extra incentives make ordering from Sephora so worth it!

  • 3. Critty  |  May 14, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Thanks! I have been dying to go to an Ulta, but now I can relax. Sephora is pretty great 🙂

  • 4. KiKi  |  May 16, 2008 at 5:40 am

    I would choose Ulta over Sephora any day. I just don’t like the way I’ve always been treated at Sephora.

  • 5. Whitney  |  May 28, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Ulta recently opened in my city (about 5 minutes from my workplace), and my husband now refers to it as That Store That’s Going to Send Us to the Poorhouse. 😉

    I love having both mass market and prestige brands in one store – there is so much to be said for that kind of convenience. And by using the frequent coupons and specials and rewards certificates, I’ve never paid any more for mass market brands at Ulta than I would at, say, Target.

    I do like the Ulta brand of makeup, especially the eyeshadow (which lasts all day) and the nail polish (on a par with OPI, in my experience). And having a salon/spa in the store offering hair services, waxing, massages, facials…that can’t be beat.

    I have visited Sephora stores while in other cities, and I love them, too. But I’m glad that my city got an Ulta instead. I just prefer it over Sephora.

  • 6. jen38  |  May 28, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Thanks Whitney, you made some very good points for shopping at Ulta. I am so grateful these stores haven’t hit SLC yet, my husband would be singing the same song! 🙂

    Come back and comment often, sounds like you have a lot of great things to share.

  • 7. mo mommy  |  May 28, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I think if I lived closer to an Ulta and could take advantage of coupons and in store specials the convenience could easily win me over. I have easy access to mass market products here, but only Nordstrom and Macy’s offer prestige products so I am at the mercy of their relatively slim selection. That is why I choose Sephora on vacation instead of Ulta. I don’t want to spend more money for items I could easily buy at home.
    My husband has a similar saying about another business. I think I’m seeing a trend!

  • 8. LGirl  |  August 6, 2008 at 7:19 am

    I prefer ULTA. I used to love Sephora but they move brands out so fast. I understand that they may not make money on some and their space is limited. Ultas are bigger stores and they carry so much more. Even beyond the mass brands, they carry like every salon product and it is so convenient to be able to get everything in one spot. Plus, they have crazy deals like buy one get one free on a lot of things that I use on a regular basis. Sephora never has sales and they never carry anything mass. I have a Sephora and an ulta near me and even though the ulta is about 1 mile farther away, I always go there instead.

  • 9. Miss Mari  |  August 23, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I have to diagree with this statement:

    “However, you WILL pay for the convenience. For instance, I saved $10 on only 3 items by stopping at Target on the way home. If cost is a concern to you than you’re probably better off going elsewhere, but if you’re running short on time and can only make one stop then Ulta would be your best bet”

    I work at Ulta in the Prestige department Were on the top 10 list of all Ulta’s in the whole country. Our prices are a lot lower with mass cosmetics than other stores, especially drugstores, yea target may have some good pricing, but we always have buy 1 get 1 deals, or buy 2 get 2, or buy 1 get 1 half off. Plus, if you are in our rewards club, you’ll be saving even more money and earning points to get rewards as well…that can’t be beat. I’m also in the Sephora beauty insider club, but you don’t get those percent off coupons (friends and family event) that you can use on ANYTHING in the store even fragrance and prestige. Also, yea Sephora gives those samples for every purchase you make, but we do carry lots of skincare samples and you don’t have to buy anything, just ask. If I do make a good sale with a customer I give them tons of samples just to say thanks.

    Before working for Ulta, I was always one of their loyal customers. I spend a lot of my paychecks there still lol. It’s just so convenient to buy every beauty need at once. Say I need some new hairspray with extra hold, i’ll get me some nick chavez (amazing volumizing stuff!), and i need my face cleanser i ran out of, get that and get a free gift with it, then i can check out some specials in mass cosmetics…grab a few of those, pick up a new fragrance, and def get some new products from the prestige brands…it’s so awesome, i always get happy goin home with new stuff =)

    But anyways, i do love Sephora…i love high end brands and wish that Ulta would carry some of their someday *cough* Make Up For Ever *cough* but Iwe’re getting there! Benefit is one of our new lines to carry! It’s only at a few Ultas for now. Recently we got Bliss, Lorac, Derma Doctor, Perricone MD…now the next one is from a cosmetics line I’m not going to say the whole word…it just starts with an N



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