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Post in Besides Beauty

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

Ulta Ulta Ulta and here is why:


As a Platinum Rewards member (you are qualified after spending $350+ in one calendar year), you get bonus points that are better than getting a 20% off coupon for an entire purchase.


In late August 2013, I got a bonus point offer at 10x the base point plus they had an additional bonus point offer of 3x for Platinum members.  I bought three Clarisonic Mia 2 for each of my sisters for their birthday.  Each cost $149, for a total of $447.  I earned 1940 points each, for a total of 5,820 points.


For each 2000 points, that's $125 in rewards.  The 5,820 points is equivalent to $333 in rewards for future purchases. 


At the end, I paid $114 for all three Mia 2 devices ($38 each or 25% of the original price).


Another way to look at it, I got each of my sisters a nice gift and I got myself a total of $333 towards future purchases. 


Also, every Wednesday, between 10am-2pm Central Time, there is an extra bonus gift offer for ANY purchases at or above $35.  Today's free gift set was a Benefit 6pc set that included deluxe samples of Noelle Fragrance, 2 Hello Flawless Foundation, Cha Cha Tint, Bad Girl Mascara and a cosmetic bag.  In the past weeks, they have given out gift sets from Urban Decay, StiVectin and Bare Minerals.


I did sign up for Sephora's rewards program online and I am monitoring it for any specials, but I have not made a purchase since their rewards aren't that great compared to Ulta's rewards system.


I spent $447 at Ulta and I got $333 towards future purchases.  If I were to spend $500 at Sephora, I would qualify for a complimentary 3 pc Bobbi Brown To Go kit.


Hmmm, 3 pc Bobbi Brown kit or get $333+ for future purchases?   

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Why do I feel like the rewards are different depending on your location? Also my Ulta always excludes everything that's high end from their sales. I don't really buy anything that's drugstore, and Ulta doesn't carry any brands that I can't find at Sephora. At least when Sephora has a sale there aren't any exclusions. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Three or four times a year they have a 20% off promo/coupon that only has 1 or 2 exclusions, and includes most items in the store, including prestige items. I wait for those coupons (just got one last week!) and then I make a big purchase. (I go through my sephora loves list and see what I can get at Ulta and take off of my sephora list). Like I have stated in a similar post, at Ulta I have received over $600 in free money to spend on ANYTHING in the store in the last 12 months. 

Much richer rewards program.


Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

It's really annoying, I seem to have stopped getting email from Ulta so I didn't get that coupon (or anything else recently).  At least Sephora seems to have finally sorted out my email and I have this great group to check for updates, too!

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I just got one too! Saved $50, which was pretty cool. It's the first time I've seen one of those so I jumped on it.


I too am stuck with the Club at Ulta program - and I didn't even get my rewards certificate this quarter! I'm going to have to give them a call since I'm supposed to get the top one. Their site says eventually every area will switch to the good one. Still waiting for that.


Even still, I get SO much free stuff at Ulta with their GWPs that don't require a code. Granted, I often buy things I wouldn't have because of those, but I've found a bunch of products that I really like that way.


And my Ulta is actually really good about returns! It's funny; I've always heard about how bad Ulta's customer service is so I was dreading going in the first time. But they were really pretty awesome. The only greeting I get at the door is a "Hi, welcome!" but that's all I want at first. It's been my experience that if I look like I need help, someone will come help me. Meanwhile, my nearest Sephora... well, it sucks. I hate to say it, because I love Sephora and the one near where I used to live was awesome, but this store's service is terrible. Most staff give me a weird judged feeling and they always give me a total hassle whenever I return something.


Both Ulta and Sephora have brands that I like that the other doesn't (e.g. Ulta has Ahava, Sephora has Laura Mercier). The Sephora store brand is much better than Ulta's though. It seems like the Sephora brand is "prestige" quality and Ulta's is drug store quality.


I'm more drawn to Sephora, though. I love their Favorites collections soooo very much. And I love Beauty Talk! (I spend a lot more time reading than making my own posts.) The swatches, the advice, the helping me feel less like I have A Problem with all my beauty purchases...

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

You see, my Ulta (or my area) doesn't offer the points system. I'm on the "The Club at Ulta" which sucks. I only have a limited choice on freebies that vary depending on which level you're at, but most of them are Ulta brand things which suck. And to reach those levels I have to spend a certain amount quarterly. 

My sephora points roll over yearly... 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I agree with you! the 20% off excludes ALL prestige brands, including essie & OPI (which is the main reason i even go there) the only 20% off is the drugstore items

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

That's so weird.  I just used a 20% coupon code that applied to my Lorac Pro palette and Clarisonic brush heads, but I did it online.  I even put Urban Decay, Benefit, Too Faced and Bare Minerals products in my cart just to see if the 20% off would apply and it did on all of them.  I didn't buy them all though.  I normally use the $3.50 off $10 purchase on lip moisturizers and makeup wipes, so for me, it's worth it. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

My last one worked on OPI when I ordered online.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

oh my goodness. Ulta has some sick rewards program. too badI can't purchase online coz it won't accept my credit card! Smiley Sad So yea, pretty much I'm stuck with Sephora. Is there Ulta in Canada? lol.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Definitely check out Shoppers Drug Mart/Murale (owned by the same company) in Canada. They are really stepping up their higher end offerings in a lot of the Shoppers stores and they have a reward program where you earn points for cash off of future purchases. They have 20x points events on a regular basis and often bonus points on certain items in their flyers. Plus they have all your basic drug store stuff and many of them have a food section too now, so you can rack up the points pretty quickly if you pay attention. Smiley Happy

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

They accept PayPal.  I'm not sure if they have an Ulta in Canada. Sorry, I live in Alaska where there is no Ulta or Sephora store, so I do everything online. 


Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

No Ulta in Canada. Smiley Sad I had an order I wanted to make from Ulta with a US credit card and shipping to a US address and their site still wouldn't take it because I was making the order from Mexico! I called their customer service and was basically told "too bad". I haven't really gone back to look at their site since, it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I spend WAY too much on beauty products/make up, yet I always end up buying from Ulta. I do like Sephora quite a bit more with their higher end brands and knowledgeable staff, but with Ulta's superior rewards program and bi-annual "20% off your entire purchase" coupon I rarely head to Sephora anymore. However, if Sephora started sending out the occasional percent off coupon I would throw my Ulta card out for good! 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

This might be sacrilege to say here, but I LOVE Ulta. Part of the reason is because the only Sephora in my city is one of the super small one's in JCPenneys. Pretty lame. But, I also just love the variety I get at Ulta. They carry my Philosophy and Juice Beauty products, plus Urban Decay and a HUGE Bare Minerals section. The salon is great, I love the girl who does my hair, and the selection of salon products is amazing. The drugstore brand section is great for me since there are products that I have a hard time finding anywhere else and the selection is amazing (like NYX, which I am addicted to). Ulta has pretty much everything. Add their amazing sales and rewards program for Platinum members (which is yearly, not quarterly) and it's perfect.
It's great that the associates, while not super knowledgeable, at least don't work on commission so they don't try to force products down your throat.


Sephora is good for a larger selection of high end products, and I do feel like their sales associates are a bit more knowledgeable. Maybe if they had a larger store nearby I would go more often.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I shop at both stores for different reasons.  I tend to go to Ulta to pick up drugstore brands, certain brands of nail polish, and the great deals they have on salon brand haircare products.  I will say that I think their higher end rewards tend to be  better (think 500 point perk)  such as  $40 off any fragrance purchase.  Still, I much prefer to shop at Sephora because I get better service and advice from their staff.  As far as I am concerned, is far superior to Ulta online.  I like Ulta but my beauty <3 belongs to Sephora.  Smiley Happy

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

So so true about the website. I come to Sephora's site pretty much everyday. I go to Ulta's when they have new GWPs listed.


I would shop at a Sephora brick & mortar store more often if (1) there was one closer than 1 hour away and (2) that local store wasn't terrible. I've actually come to dislike going into my nearest Sephora. The first store I went into, and the one that stole my heart, was so SO much better in nearly every way. Better service, bigger, better layout, testers were even in better condition. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I agree that the sephora website is leaps and bounds more well designed than Ulta's. Ulta is revamping their site now (they sent platinum members a preview link to the new site) and I am sad to say it isn't any better in the newer version, either.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Very valid points!

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I shop at both, and both have their benefits.


I prefer to buy drugstore brand products at Ulta rather than drugstores because of the testers and generous return policy. In addition to the drugstore brands, there are good brands that Ulta carries but Sephora doesn't. Some examples are Dermalogica, NYX, Cargo, Body Shop, Laura Geller, and La Roche Posay.


Sephora in turn carries many brands that Ulta does not.


Ulta does sales more regularly, especially with the drugstore brands. They sometimes have amazing one-day deals. Two months ago, for instance, a full size Tarte Maracuja Oil ($45) was on sale for $26 at Ulta, for one day only.


The Ulta website often gives me problems when trying to order.


In terms of loyalty programs, Sephora's is hands down better. Ulta does it by the quarter, so you can't carry over points from a previous quarter.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict



Yes, they use it to track your purchases- which you can then see in your "Loves" and access if you wanted to know which shade of lipstick you purchased five months ago or so.


In addition to that, for each dollar you spend at Sephora, you earn 1 point.  You can accumulate points and redeem deluxe samples of products you love, or want to try out.


To become a Very Important Beauty Insider, you have to purchase $350 or more worth of products in one calendar year.  Being a VIB gives you special access to "better" deluxe sample codes upon online checkout, and longer sales days (chic week for VIBs were 2 days longer than it was for BIs).  I'm sure there's much more and a moderator can elaborate on but I think it's very much worth it!  Free things for spending money! ;D