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

The Ulta in my area is horrible. Horrible customer service. Horrible everything. Employees are sloppy in appearance, testers are disguisting (I've seen some employees use the lipgloss wand that comes with the tube..) But what really ticked me off is how horrible their events are.


I went to the Urban Decay event and never felt so embarrassed in my life. Not only did the lady only spend 15 minutes on me (get this, she spend and hour and 15 minutes on the girl before me), but she was pressuring me to buy product! It completely turned me away from Ulta as well as Urban Decay due to the rudeness of the so-called representative.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I am a very loyal shopper to ULTA, and have only recently started shopping at Sephora, mainly because there was not one near me.

I find Sephora's website confusing, whereas ULTA's web design makes sense to me.

While Sephora has a lot of exclusive products, they are exclusive only to VIB and VIB Rouge Members. It baffles me that if I want a product, why they won't give it to me. I am very willing to pay for it!

At ULTA, this is not the case. Anyone can buy anything that they like. The points system is very simple, and I really like the blend of high end and drugstore brands.

The points program at ULTA is amazing, I save SO much money, whereas with Sephora, I have to pay full price most of the time.

All in all, if I want something higher end that is exclusive to Sephora (YSL, Dior, Guerlain) I will shop at Sephora. Otherwise? I'm going to ULTA!

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I've never been to any store events at either one so I can't comment on that. I do agree that Ulta's shipping is slow (although it's gotten a bit faster). I love that Sephora gives me free shipping on any order but that's the only perk I really enjoy for being Rouge. As for Ulta, I am platinum there and recently got $30 off my order thanks to their rewards program plus I have another $20 or so waiting to be spent. THAT I love the most.


But do I love Ulta more than Sephora? No way. I enjoy both the online and in-store experiences at Sephora better. And recently I had the chance to deal with telephone Customer Service for both stores several times and Sephora won that competition hands down. As for in-store customer service, I find both equally lacking but not in the same way. At Sephora I often just get ignored. At Ulta they do not seem to have many people working there to begin with. If you could add some brands that Ulta has to Sephora (such as Lipstick Queen and Butter London cosmetics) and give me a cash back rewards program, Sephora would be the only game in town for me. Let's face it, we all have a TON of places that sell drugstore brand cosmetics and skincare with frequent sales so I don't need Ulta for that. Plus, I've never used their salon services.


Verdict: For now, I will frequent both. (Plus I just got an email for 5x points at Ulta till 9/21 I think. Sephora needs to jack up their points promotions. Geez, I just got 10x points from Ulta a couple weeks ago! What's the best Sephora's done? 4x? And it's only a trade-in for their perks.)

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I will stick with Sephora!!!!


My daughter and I attended an Ulta Grand Opening event today and it was a total waste of our time.  We had read about fun Ulta Grand Opening events with freebies and grab bags on different blogs, so we were super excited.  They advertised free "gift cards" with amounts between $5 and $100 to the first 100 customers, so we got there an hour and a half early and there were already almost 50 people in line. 


What a joke!  My "gift card" was a $5 off coupon that expires next month and cannot be combined with any other offers or Ulta coupons and my daughter wasn't eligible to receive one because she's not 18.  This was so funny to me because I already had a $5 off and a 20% coupon I had received in the mail.  The SAs read off the amounts of the "gift cards" as everyone walked through the door and grabbed one out of a box and I mostly heard $5 amounts - I only heard a few $10 and a few $15 amounts - nothing larger. They also provided a coupon for a free haircut or facial at their salon.  That was it.


There were no freebies, no giveaways, no samples.  Worse, a  lot of products were out of stock, the store was so packed you couldn't walk through the aisles and they were entirely out of the Ulta Rewards free birthday gift mascaras (they just opened!!!????!!!).  I'm an Ulta platinum member (at least two times over), but when I explicitly asked if they had any samples at checkout, they told me they don't do that - they only have gifts with purchase of certain brands (other Ultas in town actually provide perfume or skincare samples at checkout when I ask).  Overall, I was very disappointed - the "event" didn't feel like anything different than shopping at any Ulta during the busy holiday season.


Aside from this disappointing event, I hate how long Ulta's shipping takes - 3 weeks sometimes!  Furthermore, they treat their Platinum members the same as anyone else.  On the plus side, I do like their new rewards program and the gifts with purchase offers.  However, I can get $5 rewards for every $50 I spend on Beauty products at CVS (whereas at Ulta I only get $3 for every $100 I spend) so I think I'll stick with CVS for drugstore brands and Sephora for higher end products.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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Sephora AND Ulta!  I love Sephora because

1)there are several stores here (live in Hawaii, can't exactly drive to the next state for a bit of shopping)

2) some wonderful brands that I can't get anywhere else 

3) the look and feel of the stores is chic and usually inviting

4) lots of samples to try for points/promos


Ulta when visiting the mainland for brands that Sephora doesn't carry (doesn't ship here for free Smiley Sad boo!)

Rewards=$$$ saved.  Pick up that drugstore brand you like while you are there, too!  Visit the salon!


 Dilemma solved Smiley Happy

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I noticed today that I haven't ordered from Sephora in a month and not because I was trying.  Every time I go to order something I think about how annoyed I am with Rouge and I put it off for 'later.'  Guess that tells the tale.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Most of my review is an echo of others:


Sephora: great customer service, provides in-store samples, poor point perks.

Ulta: great point perks, coupons and discounts, lousy customer service.


I have 5 brands I am absolutely loyal to, Sephora carries all 5 but Ulta only carries 2.  However of those 2 (Too Faced and Urban Decay) Ulta often has more exclusives than Sephora. For instance with Too Faced's Fall 2014 line Ulta has 2 exclusive eye pallets (Country and Rock & Roll), an exclusive lip color (Country Star) and an exclusive lip balm line. Sephora only has 1 exclusive eye pallet (Cat Eyes). Its those exclusives that keeps me going back to Ulta.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I love Sephora for things but also love Ulta. I was able to get a full size UD all nighter spray and a freeman face mask for $25 and change, the UD is normally $30. Had a 20% off coupon and $3 off in rewards points. That I cant do at Sephora.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Bye bye Sephora.  The VIB rouge program is all hype.  ULTA gives you real rewards with full size products, really! It's a no brainer.  Some things I can only buy at Sephora, but they have lost me as a loyal customer.  Really terrible rewards, I am surprised they haven't changed it.  The site is all bells and whistles for how much i have spent there the last 5 plus years. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

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I was just thinking about this 2 days ago when I went into an Ulta store. I typically only shop Sephora (because I love the place! haha) but also because I think the Sales Associates are much more knowledgeable and helpful. Anyways, I was near an Ulta and decided to hop in to check out an eyeshadow palette only they sell and also a CC cream. I ended up purchasing the eyeshadow palette and asked a SA for a sample of the CC cream (it was a high end one they sell, not drugstore) so that I could see how my skin reacted to it. I have very oily skin that tends to freak out easily so I always sample a foundation before I buy. The SA responded back to me "Ohh... No. We don't give samples." I was floored. I guess I am so used to Sephora, Nordstrom, and the like, that always offer a client a sample if they want to try a product, especially something as finicky as a foundation. Why would I want to give my money to a company that has unhelpful associates and can't even offer a sample? We may have our gripes about the Rouge/VIB system but I still say shopping at Sephora is the best option out there. 

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.

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