The Champs-Élysées can be a controversial topic–once a field of greens and gardens, the avenue has become a prominent location for historic events, including parades and the final piece of the Tour de France, as well as a site for various retail stores and tourist attractions. The site of the Arc de Triomphe visually dominates the street. Crowds of people are attracted from all over the world. Although unquestionably French, the street has an international feel.
The avenue is lined with stores, many of which are large retailers and some of which are French-based. Sephora’s largest store in Paris (and perhaps its largest store anywhere) is there. It just two doors down from the Guerlain boutique, so if you go to one it is worth seeing the other.
I have been going to this store nearly every year for the past ten. The traffic volume that this store gets is unprecedented–there is an enormous, multi-lingual and multi-cultural crowd in their nearly every waking hour. The Champs-Élysées is populated by people carrying Sephora bags, all the way. It is a credit to the valiant efforts of their staff that such a hands-on styled business is able to function.
The front foyer area includes a featured brand that changes out every few weeks. This typically includes several counters, makeup testing and application areas and large, splashy graphics. Here is one for Giorgio Armani:
Sephora’s Champs-Élysées store carries several brands not carried by the U.S. Sephora, but still familiar to U.S. buyers. These include Chanel makeup (Euro versions only), Bobbi Brown, Armani makeup, By Terry, Shu Uemura and MAC. It also includes some French brands, such as Institut Esthederm.
In the main store area, the perfume section lines both side walls going about halfway back. In the middle are featured brands, such as Bare Escentuals, an enormous mens skincare section, Sephora exclusives and Sephora’s own brand. The back is skincare, and somewhere inbetween are the other main beauty brands, including Nars, Make Up For Ever, Shu, Dior, Givenchy, YSL Bobbi Brown and the rest.
As far as I know, this store is the only Sephora that carries MAC. They carry all non-Pro products, just as any U.S. department store does. This time, they featured MAC’s Back to the Beach collection (and yes, Marine Life was in stock). The MAC sales associates seem to work only in the MAC sections; formerly, one had to pay for MAC items separately here but now all of check-outs have been combined. This MAC used to carry a special lipstick, called “Sephora Red,” it was a pretty shade similar to the Sephora accent red used in their graphics. I could not locate one this time around, although I did ask a few of the MAC staffers, perhaps it has been discontinued.
When I first started visiting this store, they had amazing selection of Paul & Joe and other boutique lines but those are long gone now. The staff is multi-lingual and most seem to know English. There are plenty of Sephora staff around at all times, just as in the U.S. your browsing will be frequently peppered with offers of assistance. Half of what I wanted was out of stock, so I left without buying this time. Although the staff is helpful and pleasant, there does not appear to be a way to keep the supply going with the constant demand.
Generally, you will not find tremendous bargains here. Most of these items are available in the U.S., and depending on the exchange rate the prices are lower in the U.S. If you plan to visit, I would absolutely focus on items that are not available in the U.S. because otherwise you are better off buying at home. That being said, the samples can sometimes be quite generous. Also, the store does arrange for VAT tax refunds (which helps even out the price disparity considerably).
Of course, there are many Sephora locations in Paris. Most are surprised to see a tiny Sephora in the basement shops under the Louvre Museum (art…and makeup!). There is another across from the two large department stores, Le Printemps and the Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Hausmann.
Here is another on the Rue Rivoli–this one has a very good Guerlain display:
In both the Boulevard Hausmann and Rivioli stores, the crowds are fewer and the stock level is far greater, however some of the brands (MAC, particularly) are absent.