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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


RETAIL REGULARITY—Each year a mysterious shopping list appears pasted to my forehead from Mrs. S. Claus. It’s strictly a “stocking stuffer hint list” but I take the suggestions only slightly less seriously than Moses did on Mt. Sinai. One cannot be too careful when dealing with a higher power.

This year, eyeliner products were high on the list, including directions to Fashion Valley’s It’s the Napa Auto Parts of feminine grooming. If you can’t find it there—it probably doesn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean I was looking forward to the experience. Up against seasoned holiday shoppers, I feared a two or three-hour experience was ahead of me.

I took two steps inside Sephora (10 am on Saturday) and a smiling salesperson greeted me before I had a chance to groan at the sight of such a crowded shop. The well-groomed 20-something was dressed in black and stepped out of the fashion pages of GQ. I showed him my list. “I need help.”

Yes, you do, he replied. I assumed he was talking about the list.

He handed me a small shopping basket and we navigated the aisles. The first item was found easily enough, but the next two demanded help from two other manager types. Within ten minutes of my arrival, my basket was filled. I handed over my credit card and he handed it back. I was forwarded to a long line in the back of the store.

I should have known. Twenty women in line were ahead of me, including several tots in baby strollers. But, here’s why this retailer succeeds where others fail. Yes, the line was long, but there were six frenzied cash registers working. This was no bank line, where five out of six tellers are on break. At, Sephora, I was done before I had to finish several small talk conversations with fellow shoppers. A bond was created and we all swore to meet back here in a year.

Since then, this blog’s ace researchers have unearthed Sephora is an international conglomerate owned by the Louis Vuitton/Moet Hennessey group. Sephora was founded in Paris in 1970 by Dominique Mandonnaud, who reportedly fashioned the name from Zipporah (Moses’ beautiful wife) and the ancient Greek word sephos, which means pretty.

Note: This is part of an ongoing series in this blog on retail businesses that “get it” and why they succeed where others put up going out of business signs.

Image: Courtesy of Sephora.

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