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Thread: Contra Sephoram

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Washington, DC

    Default Contra Sephoram

    I would like to start a thread to collect opinions on the effect of Sephora on European perfumery. Do you think it has been good or bad for perfumery?

    I haven't bought there in a while, but recently I noticed that it is owned by the Arnault of LMVH perfumery (in)famy - which should have been obvious since the very beginning, but which somehow I had missed. This will guarantee that I will not buy there anymore if not under duress.

    I had always been amazed at the lack of interest of Mr Arnault in the downfall of the perfume houses under his control (like Guerlain and Dior). The fact that he owns Sephora, though, establishes a causal relation. Sephora is pushing out of business older smaller stores, and many department stores, which would have made business with the classics. So there's no point in putting energy into them, it could even be counterproductive. Cheap, sporty perfumes and cosmetics are better money makers at Sephora, so that's where the energy goes (see Guerlain cosmetics, which have now 10 times more counter space than perfumes - if perfumes find a place at all). So it's just not lack of interest, it's a deliberate strategy, which IFRA seems to have unknowingly accelerated (it had already happed at Dior without IFRA).

    (Incidentally, the effect isn't that good on cosmetics either, the harsh warm lights of Sephora displays make creams go rancid right away, despite the protestations of sales assistant, evidently anesthesized by massive doses of Light blue, that rancid oils is indeed what creams should smell like. I still remember a SA who told me, straight face, that the parmesan cheese left under August sun for a week miasma emanating from a tester was what rose absolute smells like).

    However, one must also say that Sephora provides an easy, convenient place to test and try perfumes, more relaxing than most other stores, especially for newbies - and I have used it this way extensively. So one could argue that Sephora helps introduce people to perfumery - before people actually move up to good stuff.

    Obviously, I think the first force prevails, and the net effect of Sephora is way negative.

    What do you think?


    PS You will forgive my title. But after Profvmvm and the HdP trio, I feel entitled to some Latin silliness.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2011

    Default Re: Contra Sephoram

    It's surprising to me that Sephora still hasn't arrived here in the UK, although I've had the pleasure when visiting New York, Rome, Washington, and Prague. This is because I generally can't resist dropping in when I see a shop with lots of perfume. But I've always found them to be quite boring and same-y, and when I've lived in places with Sephoras I rarely visited once the novelty wore off.

    Plus, like you say there are those hot lights, so I wouldn't buy something there that I could buy elsewhere. And I can definitely buy elsewhere; I'm lucky enough to have Liberty, Harrod's, Selfridges, Les Senteurs, and myriad little boutiques nearby. Also, larger stores in the Boots chain have a very similar selection to Sephora's.

    It's a real shame if Sephora threatens smaller perfume shops. I would hope it wouldn't be too much of a threat to tiny niche perfumeries, though, because it doesn't have the same stock.

    And perhaps it does provide a convenient place for new perfumistas to test and try, but I wonder how many Sephoras are in places that don't already have a pretty good selection. Like I said, I've only seen them in major cities, so my experience is limited.

    All in all, I don't care for Sephora because I'm generally opposed to the consolidation and the "Wal-martization" of everything, which seems to be trying to turn us all into clones that look and smell alike and eat all the same food, yada yada.

    Also, I think your title was good!

  3. #3
    hednic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Reside in McLean, Va., Manhattan NYC, Manuel Antonio Costa Rica & Búzios Brasil

    Default Re: Contra Sephoram

    I like the Sephoras outside the US better than the ones inside. The selection is better. As for how it has developed, it doesn't bother me.

  4. #4
    Basenotes Plus

    Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Spiritually, Kansas
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    Default Re: Contra Sephoram

    I've gotten bored with the offerings in Sephora lately - especially in the men's section. Their offerings tend to be late, non-exclusive, and less than interesting to the diehard fraggie.

    On the other hand, however, Sephora was much more interesting when I was starting out. They were very conducive to entry into the hobby. A real "gateway".

    Overall, I feel like Sephora has been positive, particularly for increasing the popular enjoyment of fragrances. Even more, I find that they are a nice venue for American men - who tend to be overly self-conscious about enjoying fragrance - to sniff. However, I also hope that Sephora won't have a negative effect on those wonderful profumerias and mom-and-pop stores, which always have greater diversity and emphasis on classics. When I found such places in Europe, I was in heaven!

    PS - the sales staff in Sephora tend to be very helpful, very friendly, and very patient in leaving me to sniff in peace. They even offer me more samples than I want. Other places should take note!
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