Market report: Sephora in China

Sephora is a French brand and chain of cosmetics stores


In 1970: established in Paris

In 1997: acquired by French conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy).

By 2011, the Sephora chain owned 1655 stores in 29 countries carrying more than 250 brands along with their own private label. Sephora offers beauty products including makeup, skincare, fragrance, hair care, bath and body products, and hair and make-up tools.

Sephora in China:

In 2005: Sephora opened their first chain store in Huaihai Road in Shanghai.

Today, Sephora has opened 121 stores in 20 cities throughout China. In 2009, Sephora’s Qian Men location in Beijing became the third flagship store all over the world.

What drove its rapid growth:

  1. The design, arrangement, and decoration of Sephora stores in China appealed to Chinese consumers due to its modern style and the option to try its products before purchasing them.
  2. The logo is in black and white, an eye-catching element that attracts Chinese people.
  3. Sephora is an international brand which is very popular among Chinese consumers
  4. Sephora partners with some overseas brands of cosmetics in China with exclusive rights: SkinVitals、Fusion Beauty, For Beloved One, Eisenberg, Diesel, Harajuku Lovers, Esthederm, Rexaline, Guerlain Idyll, among others.
  5. Free make-up guidance in each store helps customers to find individualized products customizable to their preferences. Every month, Sephora organizes makeup classes to draw in customers and teach them how to properly apply make-up
  6. Online shop:
    1. In 2006, Sephora organized its biggest PR event since its establishment called “24 hours of beautiful shopping new shortcut”.  This event was aimed to improve online sales and offline sales all over China. As a result, the event attracted more than 300 members from the media. All the participants received coupons for Sephora products and were shown the convenience of buying from the company.
    2. Thierry Jaugeas, the president of Sephora China, expects Sephora’s online shop to be key in the company’s growth strategy in China.
    3. Co-event with partners:
      1. Benefit: In 2008, the founders of Benefit joined Sephora in its ribbon-cutting ceremony in Shanhai.
      2. Guerlain: in 2008, Sephora organized an event focused on Guerlain’s TERRACOTTA series product launching in Joycity in Beijing. During the event, there were model shows, online shopping displays, products display, and other promotional displays.

Strategy in China:

Beauty Academy:

In 2011, Sephora organized their “Beauty Academy” event, a competition for make-up stylists in China, and encouraged make-up enthusiasts and fashionistas to join this event.

“Beauty Academy” was China’s first competition for make-up stylist among five big cities: Wuhan, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shenyang, and Shanghai.

This competition attracted more than 500 stylists registered online to join the mass-election. The competition selects the top 10 among those stylists to participate in “the cosmetic reality show” on Dragon TV, a very influential TV station in China.

In recent years, reality shows have become very popular in China. Although there are a plethora of reality shows airing on Chinese television, Beauty Academy differs from others because it is the only reality show centered around make-up.


Shopping malls: before Sephora arrived in China, customers would normally go to big shopping malls to buy cosmetics. In the malls, cosmetics brands had their own booth and counter to sell their products.

Watson: Watson arrived in mainland China in 1993. But its target market differs from Sephora. Watson does not target high-end consumers and is not as not considered as much of a luxury.