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Next Stop Newcastle: Sephora Continues UK Expansion

Published March 21, 2024
Published March 21, 2024

Sephora's re-entry into the UK has been welcomed with open arms, showing no similarities to its initial launch in the early 2000s, which led to its exit from the cutthroat market just five years later due to high rent prices and lack of footfall. Sephora CEO Christopher de Lapuente said the relaunch, specifically in London's Westfield White City, played out 300% better than the businesses initially anticipated. As a result of this success, Sephora continued its UK growth, opening another store in London's Westfield Stratford, alongside announcing a Manchester store due to open this summer. Moving further north, Sephora has revealed Newcastle as its fourth destination.

Joining over 2,700 Sephora stores worldwide, the Newcastle store will be located in the shopping district Eldon Square. Although few specific details have been disclosed, it is known that the location will span over two retail units (6,600 square feet), making it the largest UK store so far. The store will house over 1,500 brands' products, from its own Sephora label to Sol de Janeiro, Haus Labs by Lady Gaga, Caudalie, and many more. 

Stephen Patterson, Chief Executive of Newcastle NE1—Newcastle's Business Improvement District company, which represents the interests of over 1,400 businesses—positively welcomed the news. Patterson believes that the store opening will cement Newcastle as a desirable shopping destination.

"Attracting a global brand like Sephora provides further evidence of the city's global reputation and appeal and reflects the success that will result from the transformative development work and investment happening across the city," Patterson said. The store will be competing for business against other beauty retailers in the area, including H Beauty by Harrods and Boots, continuing the battle to become the best British beauty name. 

The choice to expand further north makes perfect sense for the retailer, after Sarah Boyd, Managing Director of Sephora UK, confirmed that Manchester and other northern stores were among the highest requested from consumers. "Expanding our presence beyond London is something that consumers have been screaming out for, and we are listening hard to them when deciding where to go next," Boyd affirmed.

Graham Soult, Chairman of Durham Business Group, which supports businesses in the North of England, believes that Sephora's success can be warranted by the aesthetic value of its stores. "Under the ownership of French luxury group LVMH, Sephora has really honed the stylish and uplifting quality of its in-store experience, as well as gaining a reputation for both its own-brand ranges and exclusive big-name collaborations," Soult told Chronicle Live.

The current London stores showcase biophilic-inspired design elements like double-height ceilings, tall green plants, and fixtures with soft edges and textured finishes, and the northern stores are expected to follow suit. Well thought out services, immersive experiences, educational elements, and well-curated product selections also contribute to the luxurious aesthetic.

The continuation of Sephora's UK expansion journey follows several recently accomplished moments from the retailer internationally. Last year, Sephora was named the fastest-growing retailer in Interbrand's annual Best Global Brands report, which assigns a dollar value to each brand based on financial performance and strength. The report stated that Sephora's value reached $6.3 billion, up 15% from 2022, naming the retailer as "a force to be reckoned with." As well as this, the Financial Times reported that HSBC estimates the beauty retailer had €14.4 billion ($15.6 billion) in sales last year and generated €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) in earnings before interest and taxes.

The retailer's international expansion, specifically in the US, goes beyond its own physical stores and includes Sephora at Kohl's, a curated merchandising approach in a smaller format that displays products together by category rather than brand, creating a simplified shopping experience. It was recently announced that Kohl's partnership with Sephora is gaining rapid traction, with sales exceeding $1.4 billion in 2023. The partnership is on track to surpass its previously shared goal of $2 billion in sales by 2025, and has plans to open 140 more 750-square-foot small format shops in 40 different states by this summer.

The opening of new stores both in the UK and the US is set to broaden the number of jobs available in beauty retail, something which the business has been previously praised for. In January, Sephora was presented with the 2024 Catalyst Award for their efforts and results to increase representation for women, particularly women of color, across their organizations. These efforts are also backed up by the retailer's initiatives, including the Sephora Accelerate Program, Sephora Scholarship, and its all-abilities hiring scheme.

Despite being arguably the most prominent beauty retailer internationally, Statista reports a 43% awareness of Sephora among consumers in the UK, leaving room for further growth of sales and acknowledgment from British consumers. Sephora's continued UK expansion offers British consumers access to a wide range of innovative beauty products while enriching the local beauty market with a curated selection of beauty. Sephora stores in the UK stimulate competition and drive innovation within the beauty industry, fostering a more dynamic and diverse retail landscape for beauty enthusiasts nationwide.


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