Read about my input as to which I prefer and why!
Chances are, if you live by a Sephora, you live by an Ulta.
The two stores are quite similar when it comes down to what they offer: a wide option of makeup brands that vary in price to tailor to your needs. However, if you've been in both store before, you notice the obvious differences.
There's only one Sephora in the Oklahoma City Metro, making it very crowded. I try to avoid the magnetic pull of Sephora when it's the weekend because my feet are always getting stepped on by people or getting rolled over by a baby stroller. It's inconvenient in my opinion and bothers me during my shopping experience but the store cannot control it.
With Ulta's, they're usually in strip malls that provide mass amounts of parking and the store itself is very roomy to move around in. Luckily, there are several Ulta's I can get to in the Metro and are a lot closer compared to Sephora, making it a huge plus for me. Every Ulta is a little different with set up, giving me the option to have a preferred store that I like to visit to. Some are more condensed, some more open in set up, some have a hard time restocking the shelves constantly. Honestly though, Ulta is hardly busy and the store I like to go to is new, very open, and well organized.
When it comes down to location and convenience, Ulta takes the cake.
The first place I go to when I walk in Sephora is straight to the nice high end brands like Marc Jacobs and Yves Saint Laurent. I also enjoy browsing through Kat Von D, Tarte, and Too Faced. I like how the raised set up of all the presentation makeup is so I am not squatting down try to figure out which blush color I want.
The one thing that does frustrate me about Sephora, which totally out of their control, are all the samples (especially from high end brands like Marc Jacobs) being stolen or just M.I.A. To be fair with all the missing products, you gotta realize it's a mall and A LOT of people are going to be walking in and out of the store, making it more likely to get stolen.
However, with Sephora carrying nicer brands, they don't carry any drugstore brands. The closest to "drugstore" would most likely the Sephora Collection depending on what you buy. I've never bought from their collection but I've heard that it's pretty decent compared to Ulta's "Ulta Beauty" Line.
Now, I like to get down with a little bit of NYX, which is not sold at Sephora, but it's sold at Ulta. Many drugstore brands for people balling on a budget are sold at Ulta, making it friendlier for me because I am not tempted to spend $300 on 5 items. What I personally enjoy about Ulta is that it reaches from Elf all the way to Cover FX and Becca, giving you an option and the ability to find dupes.
Ulta is beginning to see more higher/nicer brands like Nars and MAC to their store but it still lacks brands, like Kat Von D, making it a luxury for Sephora. I'd love to see Marc Jacobs come to Ulta but I highly doubt that'll happen but a girl can dream.
Depending on what brands you like, it's a toss up for which store I prefer. Both offer things the other cannot provide for me.
I cannot stand the Sephora point reward system. I spend a solid amount of money at Sephora to buy full-sized products and their way of treating me is through little sample sized makeup. If I am spending $300+ a year at Sephora, I want to earn at least a medium sized product that won't sell out on their website the day of release.
It gets better, if you have 500+ points, you can get MORE samples sizes and a cute little makeup bag instead of a potential full sized product. In my opinion, if I am going to spend a lot of money in a store and earn points, I want to be able to take money off, which sets me up for why I LOVE LOVE LOVE Ulta's reward system.
At Ulta, you can sign up to be an Ulta Rewards Member (or whatever they call it) and earn points. With those points, you can take money off your purchase if you want to. You can save up points and make a big purchase for that eyeshadow palette you've been eyeballing for months and get money off. Ulta will also reward you with coupons you can activate; example would be "x2 points for any Tarte product."
If you reach Platinum status, you earn x3 points with any purchase and are able to get offered more coupons exclusive for Platinum members. Ulta rewards you for spending money by giving you triple points (compared to double) earned once you've reached Platinum.
Ulta obviously beats out Sephora when it comes down to their rewards system, easily.
Overall, I prefer Ulta. It's very convenient for me to get to, organized, not crowded, has a better rewards system, and is clean. I LOVE Sephora and I am not trying to drag it, it is just that most of the brands I shop from are sold at both stores, making it a matter of convenience. I just don't spend enough money at Sephora to wreak in the benefits that they have to offer sadly. Also, my Sephora kinda sucks cause it's always packed and I don't wish to have broken toes from baby strollers (that shouldn't be allowed in the cramped store, lol sorry).
It's just my opinion, not all Sephora's and Ulta's are the same and I would love to hear what your stores are like to compare to.
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Question of the Post: Which do you prefer: Sephora or Ulta? Why?