Forefront Communications

San Francisco Business Times: Beauty Giant Sephora’s New Small-Format Store Set to Land in San Francisco’s Laurel Heights

Sam Belden

Sam Belden

Sephora is ready to shake up its reputation as a mall mainstay with plans to take its high-tech boutique concept to the street.

The San Francisco-based beauty retailer plans on transforming a former Gymboree location in Laurel Heights into a new Sephora Studio, its small-store offshoot. Customers will be able to book makeovers, skincare services and consultations while also using the locations as a link between Sephora’s in-store and online operations.

The retailer’s request for a conditional use permit — a requirement given its status as as chain retailer — is expected to be approved by the planning commission this week.

Sephora started rolling out the studios last year. Its proposed outpost at 3407 California St. would be its first such location in the Bay Area, and at just 2,600 square feet, it will be one of its smallest yet. If approved, the Laurel Heights location will be the sixth Sephora Studio location in the country. Sephora currently has 2,500 locations worldwide.

A traditional Sephora location spans about 5,500 square feet. A Sephora spokeswoman confirmed the San Francisco location, and said it was expected to open in the first quarter of 2019.

The smaller footprint allows the retailer to embed itself into neighborhoods and blend in with a more residential crowd. Locals can stop in for a quick 15-minute facial between errands or pick up an online order on their way home from work.

“In today’s retail environment, where very little is constant and clients’ expectations are ever-evolving, one thing has remained true for [Sephora]: there is no better way to create meaningful connections with clients than through personalized experiences and a customized approach to beauty,” Calvin McDonald, the former CEO of Sephora Americas, said in a statement about the launch.

The retailer’s pivot away from its traditional focus on major shopping hubs comes as foot traffic at malls continues to drop. Between the second quarter of 2016 and last year, traffic at some of the largest malls in the country dropped by more than 6 percent, according to Thasos Group data.

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