Monday, 31 May 2010

Counter Culture: Beauty Base at Westfield, London

This weekend, I took a trip to Westfield with a few friends.  Towards the end of our trip, we stopped off in Beauty Base, a self service fragrance and beauty store in Westfield which claims that your shopping experience will entail "no pushy sales assistants, no waiting at a counter to get served".  Given some of the brands on offer, I found it weird to say the least.

Guerlain and Shiseido nestle either side of a Barry M display.  Nail polishes by LA Girl sit in an aisle just across from a massive display of La Prairie creams, one of which is proudly labelled £425.

There's a Milani stand, which I excitedly examine for Luminous blush, the infamous Orgasm dupe, but unfortunately they don't have it.  This is the first time I've spotted this US drug store brand on our shores, and it's within a few metres of a row of skincare products by Darphin, REN and Dr Hauschka.  A massive range of fragrances for women, men and even children is available, including the full gamut of "celebrity" fragrance.

The prices at Beauty Base are pretty much the RRP that you'd expect to pay on counter or via the web, so this isn't a discount shopping experience.  You are paying full price for high end products, but without the counters.

And you know what?  As I stood, perusing these high end cosmetics in a setting that felt much more like a branch of Superdrug or Boots, I felt distinctly weird.  Personally, the act of shopping for high end makeup demands a more personal service from counter staff.  For all that I dislike pushy SAs who are unwilling to allow you to browse, I like having a be-uniformed staff member, trained in the brand, there to answer questions, help me try on different colours, and recommend things I'd never considered.

What do you think?  Should high end cosmetics be as easy to pick up and purchase as low end ones, or do you like the extra attention you get on counter?


  1. Not a fan of Beauty Base in Westfield, I must say. One of their assistants once knocked a bottle of nail polish off the shelf and it shattered onto my jeans and shoes, I was offered a baby wipe (!) and no apology for my ruined items. I've not been back since.

    Also, I did notice that they train their staff on the items, and overheard this little snippet:

    Trainer: "This eyecream is great, it's full of coffee and helps with yadda yadda yadda!"
    Trainee "Coffee?""
    Trainer "Coffee, it's good for tiredness!"
    Trainee "Are you sure you mean coffee?"
    Trainer "Coffee".
    Trainee "Well ... ok"

  2. Not impressed with Beauty Base Westfield either. There are no counters but there are still pushy (ill-informed) SAs when they can be bothered to approach you. I have also been given the wrong change there. It's not an enjoyable experience and there seems to be no difference in price as an incentive. I like the idea of being able to stroll into a shop in your lunch hour and just pick up your usual products with no hassle, but unfortunately this is not the place to do it.

  3. This shop has had a branch in Hounslow for as long as I can remember and I always go on ther and go swatch crazy..I've never bought anything though as it's quite cramped and they still have SA's next to each brand. I haven't been in there since I started blogging though so have never really looked out for the Milani line. I need to go back to Hounslow to visit my friend so I'll deffo pop in and see if they have any.

  4. personally I think its great if you want to grab and go a product that you regularly buy, but if you want a proper your better of going to boutiques or department stores.

  5. Personally i love the sound of this, i'm so scared of SAs. I need to try westfield!

  6. I doubt that this is a concept that will go far. Surely if you want to buy these products without dealing with SAs, you buy them online so you don't have to travel either? I've never experienced having to wait at a counter, to be fair I've only bought products from a department store counter about twice in my life, but really, if you know what you want you just grab it and go straight to the waiting.

    If I go to Westfield I might go in to see the Milani stand though.

  7. I find it strange that Barry M is right next to Guerlain! If I was going to pay a lot of money for a beauty product, I'd prefer there to be sales assistants who I can ask for help and just the whole experience you get at a department store minis the pushiness x

  8. I've been buying make-up for 15 years and still need help (preferably from a SA who knows what s/he's talking about!! Can be quite rare!). There's so much choice out there now in terms of product/ effect/ colour that I just get lost! Im willing to pay the bucks if it means I get informed assistance during my shop...

  9. I actually really like Beauty Base, there is one in Hounslow too so I can pop down there within a few minutes. I like the mix of cheap and high-end products, and I'd much rather be able to pick everything up off the shelf myself than have to go to a counter.

  10. I think high end cosmetics stores/whatever should be like my favourite MAC counter, where they ask you if you need help, and are plenty help if you do need it, but they otherwise leave it to your own devices.

    Do you think it would've been less disturbing if all the drugstore stuff was lumped together and separate from the high end stuff?

  11. I went in two days ago and found the Luminous Milani blush - they had two left, definitely worth you going back because they obviously have it! It's also available (or something very similar is available) in their bronzer/sun palette thing - sorry, can't remember the name but they had a few different colourways, but there was one that was a bronzer and blush and they blush was basically Luminous! Hope that's of some use!


  12. Damned if they do, damned if they don't. Why can't people accept a different sales approach?
    If you don't like the Beauty Base sales approach piss off to Boots

  13. My daughter brought Beyonce Heat 100ml and Beyonce Heat Rush 100ml today from Beauty Base in Westfield. The cost of the two perfumes was £33.98. She brought them home completely wrapped in the clear wrapping, completely unopened. I first opened the Beyonce Heat, tore off the wrapper, then opened the box, to see the 100m bottle just over half full. I was mortified. I then proceeded to opened the other bottle Beyonce Heat Rush, only to see the same thing. The two 100ml bottles were just over half full. So in actual fact, instead of getting 100ml, I only got 70ml worth of perfume in bottle. Do you think, they will believe me if I brought them back. I don't think so. How can I prove that I did not spray the perfumes, I cannot. I am angry and frustrated about the situation, but there is nothing I can do, but keep away from Beauty Base Westfields, because they are not selling what is advertised on the box and therefore fooling people into buying there products.


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