Update: Sephora has decided to temporarily shutter all of its United States and Canada locations until April 3 to limit the spread of COVID-19. Jean-André Rougeot, President and CEO of Sephora Americas, announced the news to the store's beauty community in an online statement.
"Today we have made the difficult decision to close all of our retail stores in the US and Canada and implement remote working for employees in our corporate offices from 5 pm local time tomorrow (Tuesday, March 17) through Friday, April 3," Rougeot wrote. "Following guidance from public health authorities, we understand that practicing social distancing and reducing dense public gatherings as much as possible is critically important at this time. This is truly a global effort that requires all of our participation."
During this time, Sephora plans on paying all store employees their base pay for scheduled shifts, and employees enrolled in health and wellness benefits will continue to receive coverage. According to the statement, distribution-center employees will still be operating and will receive the same benefits if those centers are shut down. "All distribution center employees will receive the same considerations should we experience any unplanned disruptions in one of our centers," the statement reads.
In the meantime, Sephora will be offering free shipping to online shoppers through April 3rd using the code FREESHIP. The retailer is also extending its current return policy to accept items within 60 days of purchase, as opposed to the usual 30. Rougeot also encourages shoppers to continue to connect online with the beauty community and its customer service team until stores reopen.
Update (March 12): 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 organization 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 sanitizer 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 center 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 sanitizing 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.
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.