Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I've been a VIB for a few years now, and my local Sephora is within walking distance of that "other" brand. I've heard rave reviews about their rewards program, most especially about their generous giving of free product with each new level reached and not samplers.


Today, I headed to my Sephora store for the VIB event, got my bag loaded up, and then...went to Ulta. I was actually there to get a tube of NYX lip gloss since I've heard so much about it, but I went through the whole store out of pure curiosity.


The verdict? While Ulta does carry drugstore brands and their rewards are pretty lofty in comparison...Sephora has my heart. Ulta felt too "superstore-ish". No offense, but a little...below...the standard and prestige of Sephora.

So, Sephora, heed our call! Amp up our VIB rewards. Tidy up the shelves and demos in your stores (our store is a tad lacking in that dept.). And, keep up the great work! = )

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I feel I can chime in here because I am a Rouge at Sephora and Platinum at Ulta. I kind of purchase different things at the two stores, and I have one of each within 15 minutes of my house. That being said, when Ulta has coupons that include prestige brands (about 4 times a year), I will stock up on things that both stores carry.



Rewards program earns you points that convert into dollars off of your purchases

Their haircare section is extensive, but I personally can't get all my products here

Sales people as a whole are lacking in expertise or sometimes you can't find one

I really only shop half the store, I don't venture into the drugstore area

Really slow shipping for online orders



I'm pretty partial to Sephora for many reasons, including the atmosphere and helpful employees

Beauty Studio - I don't use this often, but I like the option if I need some assistance with makeup

Rewards program where you can buy special deluxe samples with points you earn, but many times the really good ones go quickly

Their skincare section and brands are phenomenal, and far superior to Ulta's in my opinion

I much prefer Sephora's customer service than Ulta's


I will continue to shop at both stores, but if I had to choose only one to shop at for the rest of my life, it would be Sephora.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I'm a VIB Rouge at Sephora and a Platinum Member at Ulta, so it's been interesting to compare the two retailers and their respective rewards programs.  Overall, Sephora has a much more higher end and glamorous feel, but I think the Ulta rewards program has some really good aspects that edge out the BI/VIB/VIB Rouge rewards in certain ways. 


Sephora Pros:
-Glamorous, pretty stores

-All high-end and luxury brands

-Better quality of brushes and beauty tools

-Much quicker shipping

-Exclusive products for VIB/VIB Rouge (when you can actually find them on the website...)

-Customers can select what they want for their "3 Free Samples" when shopping online


Sephora Cons:

-Rewards points can only be used on what Sephora is offering as samples

-It's very rare to be offered any gifts with purchase at Sephora

-Not as large of a selection of hair care brands


ULTA Pros:

-Rewards points can be banked and used on ANY product you want to purchase (even higher end, luxury brands)

-Wider selection of salon grade hair products

-Amazing gifts with purchase (especially if you shop online)

-Customers can use more than one promo code at a time online

-Frequent bonus point events and sales


ULTA Cons:

-Stores aren't as pretty and luxurious feeling

-When shopping in store, they often run out of the gifts with purchase

-Online shopping isn't as streamlined

-Not being able to select free samples is annoying, and they often end up being unusable (I've gotten a men's shaving cream sample, and John Frieda 3-Day Straight Serum....Ummm I'm a girl and my hair is already straight.  So cool, thanks ULTA)

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Use the shaving cream samples.  Men's shaving cream is awesome!  That said, I hate not being able to pick my samples.  During the days of beauty, I placed six online orders in one week (yes, I spend more at Ulta than I do at Sephora).  All six of them came with the same three samples.  One, I already knew I did not like.  The other was foundation way to dark for me, because medium does not suit everyone despite the sample's belief.  That meant only one was usable.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I have only been to an Ulta once and I don't intend to go back. I had no issues with the store itself, but when I told a SA that I was not interested in trying a product I had pause to admire the packaging of, she yelled across the store to a rep that "there's a customer who wants to try [said product] out!" This floored me. I like to browse quite a bit and only ask for help when I am truly interested or have a question. I hate pushy SAs who just want to sell me crap I don't need.


On the other hand, the SAs at my local Sephora have been so helpful, even after I initially say I don't need help and then ask them for help five minutes later. Simply put, the Sephora experience is infinitely better.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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Sephora for me. I've had to babysit way too many orders from Ulta (and have had used items arrive- ick). I will buy from Ulta but only when they have a crazy good sale or promo.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

This. I completely agree!


Usually, I make an appointment with my favorite SA at a Sephora near me to restock essentials, and it's a fun experience that I do every three months. There's no pressure, and there's a friendly bond between us. I can show up in sweats, with a full pms exhausted face, and it's all good!


As for Ulta, it doesn't matter what I look like, all the SA avoid me, and I get utterly no help, even when I track down someone and ask. Oh boy, when I ask questions, I get this blank expression... followed by "I don't know."


Recently, I swung by a Sephora that I had never been to during my lunch break, wearing my construction clothing (no makeup, carharts, steel toed boots, plain shirt) and was instantly able to get help from a SA, find a present for my cousin's wife, and some samples of items that I wanted to try. Never did anyone comment or give me any looks for my appearance!


Granted, I do go to Ulta for the shampoo/conditioner liter sale, or for items that I know I want. But they get very little of my money in comparison to Sephora! 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I like them both for different reasons, and I shop at them both for a happy balance between the two.


I like Sephora's store layout better and I like it because they carry more high-end brands than Ulta when I am looking for something more luxury brand.  But I also like Ulta because they do have both high-end brand and drug store brands.


I think Ulta totally has Sephora beat on the rewards "points" system.  If something new comes out, that is a bit more pricey, I am more like to buy it from Ulta, if I have points I can use to get $$$ off. 


However, I just turned "Rouge" so the free shipping is a huge perk at now.



Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I go to ULTA every now and again when I need a specific drug store product, but I definitely don't like it anymore.

1. I don't see the point in getting weekly coupons if they can't be used on half of the items in the store.

2. Shipping takes forever, and the last time I ordered something online (a hair mask) it came busted, and was all over everything else I ordered.

3. I haven't met one helpful SA in an ulta.

4. The stores are slightly too disorganized for my liking.


And there are other reasons I can't think of right now. I like how I can use my points towards a future purchase, but that's all I like. 

Sephora definitely has problems too, and can use better rewards and whatnot, but i'm still hooked on it. I mean I buy stuff every few days and actually ENJOY (almost) every trip I make to any sephora. That says a lot.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Sephora definitely has a better layout and more helpful employees in general.  The Ulta near my house is nicer than most of the other ones I've seen though.  That said, the nicest Ulta barely seems on par with the weakest Sephora.  


I do not care which store is prettier or which SAs are more helpful though.  For me, the deal rules.  Sometimes it can be found at Sephora.  Other times it can be found at Ulta.  There are plenty of times when neither of them have a good enough deal for me, so I shop at a number of other reputable dealers.


I have spent far more at Ulta than Sephora this year and last, so I guess Ulta wins my business more frequently.  Last year, Beauty (online) beat them both though (didn't realize this until today when I tallied everything up).  This year, Ulta is beating both though.  Who knows, maybe Sephora will win next year.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

@notcreative...Wow, I was just perusing this post after it was bumped and you nailed my opinion right on the head, the deal does rule!

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I shop at both and definitely prefer Sephora because of the brand selection, knowledgeable sales people, and samples. The ULTA stores in my area are very disorganized and many of the things that can be opened have been tested by some classless people who open up brand new products because they don't want to swatch something that has already been tested. However, I do like their rewards program and they do have more sales and specials than Sephora does, even on products that are considered higher end. I used to get my NYX stuff there, but since Target has been carrying NYX I go there instead.


I do wish Sephora offered more GWPs and weekly sales. Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, etc have GWPs so I'm not sure why Sephora doesn't.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I want to like Ulta, but I always feel disloyal to Sephora when I shop there.

Sephora is Number 1 in customer service and all of their stores are organized and well managed (even those in JCP).

In the past, I've met very sweet girls that worked at Ulta, but if I want the best advice/recommendations for skincare/makeup, I'm going to go to Sephora for the same sweetness, but the expertise of well, experts..

Even though Ulta has nearly weekly 20% or $3.50 off deals, it doesn't apply to higher end brands and I can usually get a better deal at CVS.

There's a handful of brands that I wish Sephora carried so I would not even be tempted by Ulta, but sometimes the value sets are too good to pass up.

My verdict: Sephora is the best.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I'm not a huge Ulta shopper mostly because I think they are disorganized! I can't stand their website - it is much too cluttered and hard to find things easily for me, especially coupons. Their stores are not much better and just seem trashy half the time (at least the ones I've shopped at). I'm not a member of their rewards so I can't really comment on that. In short, I would rather buy drugstore brands at the drugstore Smiley Happy


Sephora is pretty good but I am annoyed you can't use more than one coupon code at a time, and the GWP aren't just automatically added. Otherwise, I much prefer them to Ulta. 


I also do a lot of shopping through brand websites and department stores - I find they both have better GWP's and usually good customer service. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I also agree, Ulta's website appears very disorganized, confusing and not to the same standard as Sephora.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I'll take a disorganized site with working promo emails (Ulta) over a pretty site with an email system that doesn't work right and even seems to be getting worse (my promo emails are now VIB instead of Rouge and I didn't change anything). 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I like Ulta better because I can rack up some points and then use those points to get a discount. I like Ulta better because you can actually use your points for something useful like a free haircut or manicure. I don't like how at Sephora, you "spend" "$100" for a mini or "$500" for a bunch of minis. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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Totally agree with you, Andy. Although I shop that Sephora, I have been hitting up Ulta way more. I get my foundation there as well as a ton of lipsticks (NYX is awesome!) and eye shadows (again NYX and even the Ulta brand). Also, I always have a coupon to use. And I've never had a problem finding an associate to help me, but that could just my store.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Have you ever gotten one of those "free" haircuts? Because I wouldn't recommend that to anyone I liked. Maybe someone I didn't like though Smiley Wink 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I cannot stand shopping at ulta. They never have the GWP available,there always sold out . I always have to search the store for someone to help me, and most of the time there's three girls working the whole store . There return policy is crap. There drugstore make up is crazy over priced, even with there weekly sale and coupons, the only good one is the 40%off.  I can go to walmart or HEB and get the same drugstore make up for way less, I think they should have a coupon for either the whole store or for none of the store, instead of making there coupon avaible for there prestige products one month and then the next month the same 20% coupon is only for drugstore brands. The most comman question I hear when I'm at ulta is, can I use this coupon for this brand? I think they need a better system. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I do occasionally shop there, but I totally agree about the coupons! Here's a coupon for 20% off your entire purchase! But wait just kidding, everything you wanted to buy is actually excluded from the coupon!

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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Just like Sephora has its sales where you can get a percentage off everything a couple times a year, Ulta does as well.  The difference is Ulta's is 20%, however, you get only one or two coupons.  I got one in the regular mail, which I used on 04-07-14 (during chic week when I also got Sephora items for 15% off).  It was right after the Days of Beauty.  I got another one in the email, which I used on 04-09-14.


I realized I forgot couple of things, so I had to pay full price for the items I forgot at Ulta on 04-10-14.  I did use $50 of my rewards dollars to soften the blow though.  You can purchase as many times as you want during chic week at Sephora, so I prefer that.  However, it was only for 15%.  


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