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Sephora Takes on Beautycon With Its Own Event

The LVMH-owned retailer is setting up a temporary space for attendees to interact with brands in a funhouse atmosphere, which it hopes will spark a social media bonanza.
The Sephora Studio on Boston’s Newbury Street | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Chantal Fernandez

SAN FRANSICO, United States — Sephora is getting into the convention business with Sephoria, an event for the retailer's most dedicated customers to interact with beauty brands.

The massive LVMH-owned specialty multi-brand retailer is constructing a multi-room “House of Beauty” over two days in October in Los Angeles with installations from over 50 brands for consumers willing to pay between about $100 and $500 to explore and shop.

The beauty events market is dominated by Beautycon, the festival for beauty obsessives that brings together shoppers, digital influencers and celebrities, sponsored by up-and-coming and major brands. Originally an industry event, Beautycon opened to consumers in 2014. Chief executive Moj Mahdara has since turned the event into the foundation of a media company that helps brands connect with younger generations of consumers. Beautycon Media has raised $9 million and its investors include A+E Networks, CAA, Hearst Media and Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Adrian Cheng.

While Sephora cannot confirm which brands will participate in Sephoria, the retailer will likely draw on the many prestige brands in its portfolio, especially the LVMH-owned ones such as Rihanna's Fenty Beauty.

Sephora is also joining a host of retailers in creating experiences for customers that go beyond shopping in a conventional store. The goal with Sephoria is to build community and give customers a fun, interactive experience — “lots of juicy experiences that she’s can snap and share and wow her social community with,” said Deborah Yeh, senior vice president of marketing and brand at Sephora. “We’ve been dreaming about something like this for awhile.”

Source: Courtesy

Just as beauty brand conglomerates are facing competition from upstart digital brands that are winning consumers through fresh approaches to marketing, distribution and product development, so too is Sephora facing market pressure to cement its status as a leading specialty beauty retailer with a splashy large-scale event.

Sephora is also seeing increased competition from Ulta, a multi-brand competitor with more mass offerings and in-store salon services. Sephora generated between $4.4 billion and $4.9 billion in sales in 2016, according to Coresight Research (LVMH does not break out Sephora's financials), while Ulta's revenue was $5.9 billion in the year ending January 2018, according to the company.

“We’re just seeing that right now our consumers are really gravitating towards experiences and product discovery, and those moments are more important than ever to consumer loyalty and brand connection,” Yeh said.

Sephoria will feature a range of set-ups around the "house" theme, including a kitchen where consumers can “play with ingredient-based skincare,” and a laundry room that is the backdrop for cleansers. After testing the concept in focus groups, Yeh is confident Sephoria’s interactive nature will encourage existing Sephora consumers to bring friends who aren’t avid beauty consumers.

When it comes to product, Sephoria’s emphasis will be on limited-edition elements such as exclusive colours, packaging design and personalisation, rather than sales. Yeh said the company doesn’t want the event to overlap with the in-store experience.

While an introductory website for Sephoria went live on Monday at Sephoria.com, tickets for the event on October 20 and 21 will not be available for sale until July 21, with special price options for members of Sephora’s rewards programs. The company was unable to confirm any of the participating brands or beauty influencers who will be in attendance.

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