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Ulta vs. Sephora: Which Store Is Your Favorite?

When it comes to the adult version of kids in a candy store, do you get your fix from the beauty juggernauts of Ulta or Sephora? And when it comes down to making the choice between these two powerhouses, which one do you typically choose? According to NPD research, 29 percent of 25 to 34 year olds go for Ulta, while 30 percent shop at Sephora. It's a close call. Sephora has always been known for its prestigious, upscale approach to beauty. But is the well-rounded Ulta giving Sephora a run for its money?

With 331 stores, Ulta is lauded for its one-stop shopping and easy-to-get-to locations, which are often found in strip malls. Many shoppers prefer the convenience of being able to buy both lower- and higher-end items, along with the accessibility of an in-store salon. While Ulta has had a discount vibe in the past, stores have become more polished over the past few years. On the flip side, if it's a hot item, Sephora almost always has it first. With 230 stores nationwide (along with 140 retail areas in JC Penney), the beauty giant is pretty much the originator of the concept of bringing together prestige brands under the same roof. Which experience do you prefer?

Sources: Eli Hodapp and Mrkathika

Join The Conversation
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 8 years
I have to say, I needed some self-tanner this weekend and didn't have time to make the hour trip to Sephora, so I swung by the local Ulta and I was much impressed. They changed the layout since I had been in it 6 months ago and had tons of testers and better products and it was way cleaner than it was before. I think I still prefer Sephora because I love the higher-end brands more and sephora brand products plus all the staff to help out, but I will stop by my local ulta more to see what they have.
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 8 years
Sephora love them for Urban Decay and Nars. Ulta is way over priced, for drug store brands I go to wal mart or an actual drug store.
brightongirl brightongirl 8 years
I love Ulta, the variety of merchandise makes it more appealing to me. Not to mention the pricing is significantly better than Sephora (ex: OPI 8.50 at Ulta, 9.50 at Sephora). Ulta is also much closer to home/work.
Glittersniffer Glittersniffer 8 years
I like my neighborhood Ulta. They're nice, they carry what I use, and the staff has been really knowledgeable too. When I last went into Sephora, I was fresh off an hour's ride on a motorcycle, and I went in to pick up some NARS stuff and to look for a new foundation color. I was a bit sweaty, yes, and in leathers and jeans, but that's no reason for the EPIC snark I got. I finally got a girl to help me. She was nice, when she found out I was there to spend. But before she noticed the fact that my jacket was vintage Gaultier, and the jeans were Rock and Republic, she wouldn't give me the time of day.
idawson idawson 8 years
sephora is just so convenient for me - they are littered everywhere in manhattan. there is one a block away from where i catch my commuter train; it is open in the morning when i am on my way to work and when i am on my way home. perfect! not really sure where the closest ulta is.
bingbingboom bingbingboom 8 years
Sephora, I like the clean brightness in the store. Also, there are more Sephora stores than Ulta.
SalescoopCat SalescoopCat 8 years
Ulta vs. Sephora!? talk about a tough call to make! There is more variety at Ulta, that is for sure, but Sephora has a better makeup selection I think. If I had to pick one over the other though, it would definitely be Sephora-- nothing beats their free give-a-ways and makeup variety.
equestriennechic equestriennechic 8 years
I live in the middle of nowhere and have never heard of Ulta... and don't have a Sephora nearby either... :(
Sublime-Queen Sublime-Queen 8 years
Ulta. Hands down. Ulta has REALLY stepped their game up lately with the brands they offer, they have an in store salon, they now have samples and freebies on their website, and they are not located in a mall! My sephora relationship ended when the company showed they have poor customer service and they refused to let me shop their store because my stroller was too big for their aisles. Additionally I've pointed out several online errors on their website - which ultimately was the undoing of my shopping loyalty. I had been lusting over DuWop's reverse liner combo online because on their website it showed that if you bought the combo - it was double the sizes available when buying individually. I went in store to make the purchase and when I pointed out the misleading info from their site they basically said 'thanks for pointing out our blatant misrepresentation but we're not going to give you what we advertised on the site since it was a mistake'. Done and done. I'll never give them another dollar of my hard earned dough.
paperdahl paperdahl 8 years
I love both but I usually shop at Ulta because it's closer.
cheer4veggies cheer4veggies 8 years
sephora for sure. however i have had poor service both places. the people at sephora are more knowledgable but i always feel like im bothering them if i have a question. the ulta people are downright rude. i asked one girl where leave-in conditioner was, she was like 'i work in make up only'. ugh.
Baby-Girl Baby-Girl 8 years
I vote for Sephora. More brands that I love. Ulta is almost like a drugstore makeup on steroids. There are three I can get to and they all seem messy and lacking stock when I do go to them. I usually end up at Sephora.
eshellmoyer eshellmoyer 8 years
I am biased, but Sephora hands down. The only Ulta I've been to was dirty and in the middle of nowhere. If I want drugstore items I'll go to CVS, where there are always 2 for 1 specials and I can get Extra Bucks.
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 8 years
Sephora! The Ulta near my house is... less than clean, with gross testers and unhelpful sales staff, and they never have the new stuff from any of my favorite brands. Plus, you can't test *any* of the drugstore brands, which is a real bummer (I'd like a Boots-model cosmetic store, myself... testers of everything!). So even though Ulta is the closest, I'm much more likely to opt for one of the four or five Sephoras (well-lit and well-maintained, with lots more goodies!) within reasonable driving/Metro distance.
AdriNicTrax AdriNicTrax 8 years
Sephora!! Ulta might have coupons but each Ulta that I have been too nobody seems to be helpful and its not like I can get free samples of a product like Sephora. I like the customer service a lot better then Ulta. Sephora is so inviting and I love it.
anon321 anon321 8 years
I prefer Sephora, but I do shop at both. Ulta is closer for me if I'm out of something I really need that they sell.
ModernGraceKelly ModernGraceKelly 8 years
I have an Ulta closer to me, and a Sephora an hour away... So I love Sephora, but Ulta is bigger. Ulta has started carrying more brands recently. I wish there was a huge Sephora close by though!
arcticpuppet arcticpuppet 8 years
sephora all the way!!
ChristinaMUFE ChristinaMUFE 8 years
I know I'm biased but I'm a Sephora girl through and through!!!!! Shopping at Sephora is an experience like no other! Customer service, in my experience, at Ulta is lacking. After Sephora I prefer The Body Shop, on products only, and Bath and Body Works, overall. :-D
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