EXCLUSIVE: Sephora’s Paris Flagship Gets a Makeover

PARIS — Sephora’s Parisian flagship has gotten a significant makeover.

Following six-and-a-half months of renovation, the 12,915-square-foot store will reopen its doors to the public on Friday. This is the first major remodeling the location has had since opening in 1996.

Sephora is shaping the prestige beauty landscape,” said Guillaume Motte, the retailer’s president and chief executive officer. “We are, at the moment, going through a very inspiring momentum, with vibrant innovations in terms of brands, categories and products, new customer behaviors and expectations.

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“It was the perfect moment to reinvent the prestige beauty flagship experience,” he continued. “And, of course, the perspective of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games [for which Sephora is an official partner of the torch relay] made it a perfect moment for this renovation.”

“We wanted to create a more differentiated experience that brings together the best of beauty from all around the world, with an atmosphere that is deeply connected to the store’s exceptional location,” continued Sylvie Moreau, president, Europe and Middle East at Sephora.

There was just one city in mind.

“The inspiration is coming from Paris,” said Benoît Ponte, general manager of Sephora France, during a walk-through last week of the store, which was bustling with employees setting up for the reopening.

The flagship’s design nods vigorously to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, on which it stands, at numbers 70 to 72, with a 2.6-foot-wide path of hand-set snow white marble paving running straight through the store. Sephora’s signature black-and-white stripes appear on some columns flanking that.

Making everything glow is the 295-foot-long illuminated ceiling, which can be adjusted to resemble natural light. The idea was to give the illusion of being under one of Paris’ glass-covered walkways.

Upon entering, Sephora’s walls seem to be made of the limestone used on Parisian buildings, but it’s trompe l’oeil. On the left-hand side is a click-and-collect area with a selfie-friendly, multihued light box.

A bit further in, guests will find a list of the store’s services, like makeup, skin care, hair, fragrance discovery, brows, face glow and personalized engraving. That hangs across from a wall ablaze with Sephora’s flame logo.

The Corner is devoted to individual brands, with the first being Dior. Then the full brand experience rolls out.

“It’s very premium,” said Ponte of the selection. “Some brands are only at Sephora Champs-Élysées.”

An example of a label found in no other Sephoras is Maison Francis Kurkdjian, a fragrance brand that shares the retailer’s parent company, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Francis Kurkdjian will be sold in the section devoted to high-premium fragrance brands. Facing that are premium makeup labels.

“You have the Beauty Hub, which is really the Arc de Triomphe inside the store,” said Ponte, pointing to the 540-square-foot central space. “We can animate it on our own, but the brands are animating as well. For the coming two months we will have a new brand doing something every day.”

At first, makeup and skin care labels will mostly take over the hub, which is modular.

There is an area showcasing which brands are hot on social media, plus The Next Big Thing gondola and the Gift Hub.

Reda Slaoui, director of architecture and design, Europe and Middle East at Sephora, highlighted some noble materials implemented, such as the high-quality marble used on some counters, as well as the floor.

For the first time in a Sephora, there are large green plants.

“Visually it has an effect when you have plants in the space, but it also helps with the air quality,” said Slaoui, adding the new air conditioning system filters to the maximum.

Much thought was poured into corporate social responsibility initiatives. There are, for instance, fewer digital screens in the new location versus its predecessor. Each LED system was replaced with the most consumption-efficient iteration.

“This store will reduce by 50 percent the energy consumption that we had in the previous store,” said Ponte.

A rendering of the exterior of Sephora’s renovated Parisian flagship.

Acoustics-wise, it will be quieter here, too, due to some corrugated textures on walls, as well as materials used, such as wood.

This flagship also sells the wide range of prestige fragrance — for women and for men — and color cosmetics found at other Sephoras. Those include the likes of Benefit, Charlotte Tilbury and Rare Beauty.

The retailer’s signature collection has its own department, and there’s an area for hair care.

“The category of hair is booming at Sephora,” said Ponte, explaining it’s been a segment of focus for the retailer over the past two years in France, where its selling surface has doubled. Some brands lining shelves include Kérastase, Gisou, Sisley and Moroccanoil, as well as Dyson accessories.

Where the cash registers once stood at the far right of the store now houses the skin care department, replete with strips of wood lining the walls and elevated ceiling. This vast area, with brands such as Byoma, Drunk Elephant and Laneige, has skin-related services. It is illuminated with natural light streaming through large, frosted windows.

“Like hair care, it’s another booming category for us,” said Ponte.

Merchandising was tweaked.

“We optimized the space of the brands” to help improve circulation, said Slaoui, explaining that some gondolas are shorter than before, measuring 6.5 feet rather than 10 feet in length.

“But at the end of the day, we express the same volume of products,” said Ponte.

Other exclusives for France include Makeup by Mario, Prada Beauty and Glow Recipe.

Prior to the remodeling, Sephora’s Paris flagship boasted 12 million visitors a year, of which one-quarter were tourists from outside France. Many are considered VIP clients.

Per day, there were more than 10,000 people visiting, while after the renovation footfall levels should be higher, according to Ponte.

“That’s why the circulation is so important to the concept and the layout,” said Slaoui.

The cash registers now are placed directly at the back of the store under a large screen and self-checkout is available.

“We sell a product every 15 seconds,” said Ponte.

A private lounge was expanded for VIP customers or brands to animate, with services possible.

“We have Sephora codes — black and white — with very beautiful materials and the codes of Paris,” said Slaoui. “We are like in an apartment here.”

This store renovation is backed by the largest investment in the history of Sephora Europe, according to Ponte, who would not divulge numbers.

Overall, the retailer aims to take a global-yet-local approach.

“Sephora is the only prestige beauty omnichannel retailer that is truly global. However, we want to ensure we stay relevant with the local consumer,” said Motte.

“Our new stores, such as the Champs-Élysées flagship, as our first London store and our newly renovated stores in Shanghai, Singapore and Wuhan, are sources of inspiration for our future renovations, as they illustrate our strategy and the experience we want to provide to our customers,” he said, adding Sephora also learns from other initiatives, such as its partnership with Kohl’s in the U.S.

“But there is no ‘template,’” said Motte. “Each of them must be meaningful locally and resonate with local communities.”

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