Sephora Catalog Looking Good

The upscale-cosmetics catalog competition is a little stiffer these days, now that super-store Sephora has rather quietly entered the mail order channel.

The San Francisco-based company launched its catalog with a holiday 2000 book that mailed last fall to 550,000 buyers and prospects. A spring book mailed in April to approximately 400,000 buyers and prospects. The company’s Website, Sephora.com, launched in October 1999.

According to vice president of retail marketing Joe Bierman, the 32-page catalog serves several purposes. Not only does it generate telephone orders and drive traffic to the Website, but “we anticipated building traffic to our stores as well. In fact, we are testing a drop strategy in specific zip codes — ones in which we have a store, and ones in which we don’t — to see how the catalog drives traffic to our stores and our Website in those areas.”

What’s more, the company is using its media and source codes to determine which sales on its Website and in its call center were driven from the catalog. Coding also helps to measure which products are selling the best within the various channels.

“We can track which products pull the strongest on a daily basis,” Bierman explains. “And that is helpful to us because we can then say, ‘Boy, this segment of our house file really drove sales on this particular product.’”

While Bierman would not disclose response rates, average order sizes, or annual sales, he does say that the catalog performed better than anticipated. The company is mailing the book on a quarterly basis for now, but it will likely increase the frequency, Bierman adds.

All in the family

Some of Sephora’s competition in the mailbox comes from its sister catalogs and brands. Sephora was acquired in 1997 by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, one in a string of acquisitions of beauty-products companies by the Paris-based beverage and luxury-goods firm. During the past few years, LVMH has acquired New York-based spa and beauty products manufacturer/marketer Bliss, San Francisco-based cataloger/retailer BeneFit Cosmetics, and Boston-based beauty products cataloger/retailer Fresh. LVMH also bought cosmetics companies Hard Candy, Urban Decay, and Make Up for Ever.

But Sephora operates independently of its parent company, though it sells, among other items, products from its sister companies such as BeneFit, Bliss, and Hard Candy. “All of the LVMH brands operate independently of one another and of LVMH,” says a LVMH spokesperson for the parent company. LVMH, which had annual sales of about $10.31 billion for fiscal 2001, does not make public the sales of its individual properties.

While Sephora does occasionally consult with its sister catalog companies on matters pertaining to the mail order side of the business, it does not share mailing lists with them — at least, not yet. “We might do it in the future,” says Bierman. “Right now, we meet with our sister companies on occasion to discuss best practices and successes that they’ve had relative to different marketing efforts.”

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