Update: Last night, Sephora Americas CEO & President Jean-André Rougeot formally addressed shoppers in an email with detailed updates on precautions being taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"Hygiene standards for our people, store environment, products, and tools are and will always be our top priority," Rougeot says. "However, as the situation continues to evolve in North America, we have taken additional actions to ensure our entire organisation is here to serve you in the safest way possible."
The new safety guidelines include: regularly disinfecting high-touch areas including workstations, product displays, and hygiene stations with a hospital-grade cleaner; making hand sanitiser more accessible for clients and employees; increasing weekly deep cleanings of stores and distribution facilities; offering full and hourly employees paid time off if they're sick; and forming a command centre in the San Francisco and Toronto offices with representatives from various business units to respond as the issue develops.
Additionally, Sephora has suspended all paid and free in-store services, makeup and skin-care applications, and classes until further notice. Instead, they are inviting clients to receive verbal coaching from trained professionals on how to apply products using face charts and digital makeup guides. While display testers will remain in stores, the company pledges that they will be disinfected frequently and advises against applying them directly to skin.
This story was originally published on March 11.
The World Health Organization has officially declared coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, a global pandemic. Businesses, schools, and other public establishments are following government and Center for Disease Control guidelines, carefully sanitising areas of operations, encouraging students and employees to work from home when possible, and, in some cases, shutting down altogether. As confirmed cases of the virus multiply, shoppers at beauty retailers, including Sephora, are growing increasingly concerned.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the beauty megastore has cancelled its annual convention, Sephoria, the brand confirmed to Refinery29 via email. "We have made the decision to postpone Sephoria," a representative said. "Given the information we have currently available regarding the coronavirus, we believe postponement is the best course of action. The health, wellbeing, and safety of our clients, employees, and brand partners is our most important consideration." But calling off the immersive "House of Beauty" experience, which drew thousands of attendees for its debut last year, hasn't done much to answer more pressing questions from shoppers — namely, the current state of precautions being taken with open tester products and sample containers.
The CDC states that the virus is mainly spread via respiratory droplets produced by an infected person, through coughing or sneezing. That mode of transmission makes concern for product tester hygiene valid. In its statement, Sephora told Refinery29 that the company is monitoring updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and taking precautions as recommended by health officials.
"In North America, we have reminded all of our employees to be vigilant in adhering to our rigorous hygiene protocols and best practices across all of our stores, warehouses, and corporate offices and have limited non-essential travel," a spokesperson said. "We have not experienced disruptions to our business operations, but as the situation remains fluid, we will continue to assess needs to maintain service levels in our stores and via our site for all our clients."
If you're one of the many people choosing to operate from home during the viral outbreak, Sephora is currently waiving online shipping fees through the end of the month. "In an effort to promote the most inclusive beauty experience and accommodate clients who may wish to shop from home, Sephora will waive all standard shipping fees during the month of March," the brand told us.
Sephora is far from the only retailer fielding questions in the time of coronavirus: Shoppers at Ulta Beauty, Bluemercury, and more are urging stores to ban the use of samples altogether to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other germs. (We've also reached out to those companies, and will update this story if we hear back.) In the United Kingdom, MAC Cosmetics and Dior Beauty have banned in-store makeovers and enforced a no-touch policy, The Independent reports.
NEW: as of today, @MACcosmetics UK has enforced a strict #notouch policy. No artists are to demonstrate make-up on customers and all appointments have been cancelled in an attempt to stop the spread of #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/SysvovioAd— Ellie Costello (@elscostells) March 10, 2020
In the meantime, continue to follow CDC recommendations of thoroughly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, staying home if you're sick, and covering your mouth with a tissue if you sneeze or cough. And, if all this talk of self-isolation has you wishing you had a new eyeshadow palette to play with to pass the time, make sure you're picking up a brand-new, sealed item to take home.