A Brief History of Sephora

Sephora has solidly cemented itself in the fashion sphere as a cornerstone for finding makeup and perfumes that aren’t hidden away in a display case. There’s no guessing here – either it works for you or it doesn’t – and doesn’t shy away from letting you try before you buy. Did you know at the time of the store’s founding that this practice was seen as wildly controversial? Tracking down tidbits about Sephora history has led to a few surprising discoveries about the shopping climate it was founded for.
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First established back in 1969 under the name Shop 8 by Dominique Mandonnaud, who envisioned a perfume shop where customers wouldn’t have to go through a sales representative to see their products up close and personal. Instead, they’d be given the opportunity to try their products before buying, which was a nearly unheard of practice at the time. Instead of sales representatives pushing product by volume for commission, specialists helped customers find their ideal look.Sephora proper was founded just a year later in 1970, though Mandonnaud had yet to buy them out. Paris still holds the flagship Sephora shop, though its current success is nothing like the rocky start it had back in the 70s.

By 1993, Mandonnaud had 12 shops under his belt with the Shop 8 name, but he was driven to step outside of the world of perfumes and expand his beautification dreams. Sephora was purchased shortly thereafter with the two shops merging together into a one-stop locale to find perfume, makeup, bath and body supplies and more. By 1995, Sephora had launched its own brands of self-care goods and things only continued to take an upward turn from there.

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Mandonnaud held Sephora for only a few short years before selling his interest in the company to Luis Vuitton and Moet Hennessey. Having gone from a single perfume shop to a chain in over 30 countries, Sephora’s history is nothing if not an impressive success story for a driven individual who shook off the expectations of his peers and tried something different. That difference has made a lasting impact, considering Sephora’s flagship shop in Paris draws more visitors per year than the Eiffel Tower. Not too shabby for a makeup shop!

By 1998, Sephora expanded into the United States by way of New York only to follow up with an internet launch in 1999. It’s only continued to grow from there and offers an experience that has become the standard for beautification shops the world over where you’re treated more like an important customer in need of a personalized experience and less like a forgettable face at a used car dealership.

History of Sephora

The last few decades have also seen the introduction of mobile shopping and the try-before-you-buy experience expanding to the concept of Sephora’s beauty bars. Fun fact: Those beauty bars are a nice way to get your hands on samples, considering Sephora hands out up to three every time you visit.

Only time will tell what might happen next for a plucky perfumery turned worldwide giant; They’ve already spread across the globe and expanded their market to the online world. Whatever happens, Sephora’s history has been written as a definite success story that shows no sign of stopping in the coming years.


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