The growth pattern of Sephora and other cosmetics boutiques mirrors that of Starbucks, reports Alix Strauss in The New York Times (5/2/14). Sephora dates back to 1970, and opened its first American store, in SoHo, in 1999. Today, it "dominates the beauty boutique business, with some 1,300 stores in 27 countries, over 300 of those across North America," as well as "430-plus spots in JC Penney." "It’s the Starbucks phenomenon," says Maria Corbiscello of Studio MC2, a beauty company.
Maria says cosmetics stores are cropping up like coffee shops because they fill an undying desire — in the case of cosmetics for "magic in a bottle." Another rapidly growing cosmetics shop is Space NK, which originated in London and now has "23 shops in the United States and 63 in Britain." Its founder, Nicky Kinnaird, says she owes her success to the increasing irrelevance of department stores, arguing that "mono-brand counters" are at odds with the way people buy cosmetics.
"If you look in your bag or your bathroom cabinets, you have different brands with different price points," she notes, adding: "We identify and nurture niche innovators within the beauty world and edit products down to what we feel is important to our customer." Another fast-growing boutique, Ulta, uses data to decide where to open new stores. "We know how much they’re spending, how often they’re visiting, where they live in reference to where they shop, or if we need to put a store closer to where they live," she says.