Sephora, currently the leading chain of perfume and cosmetics stores in France and the second largest in Europe, has created a revolutionary approach to cosmetics retailing. This new system has turned shopping for beauty products into a totally different experience.

The concept, designed by Chafik Gasmi, puts the customer in charge by offering a hands-on, self-service shopping environment where the customer can touch, smell and experience the product. This idea is light years away from the traditional ‘Does madam have an oily skin?’ approach of most department store cosmetics halls.

At Sephora, all products are displayed in alphabetical order and the shop is divided into a number of sections: new releases, best sellers, classics and exclusive fragrances. There is also the freedom to choose the level of assistance required – highly-trained specialists are always available if customers want to know more about the products on offer. Sephora combines the best of traditional and modern approaches to selling cosmetics.

The colour theme of the stores is black, white and red: Sephora specialists are attired in black, the men in Nehru suits, the women in long black dresses. All specialists wear one black glove to create a ‘setting’ for the product when hand-held.

Sephora, owned by the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy conglomerate, has just opened its 30th store in the US and opens in Tokyo, Canada and South America later this year. There are plans to open the first UK Sephora store in the year 2000, using the same format.

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