Why we love shopping online for makeup

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Photo: Malek Chamoun

f you've ever searched in vain for someone to take your money or known more about the products being sold than the beauty expert sales assistant, then you've been shopping at one of the big two department stores. Both of them are the same, with David Jones ahead with indoctrinated politeness once someone does get behind the till - it's the only place I'm ever called ''Mrs Hughes'' - and Myer ahead for super-reductions that make the wait sometimes worthwhile.

Many a time I go to DJs or Myer and see a frustrated shopper. One who has flung her goods on the unmanned counter or challenged the sales assistant - especially the ones who say ''Sorry, I can't help you, I don't work here''. Why are you working there then? Actually, we don't care. We just want to hand over money for this thing which we had to find ourselves without assistance or advice or attention. I've been reduced to opening a counter cupboard to hunt for a specific product. That's one way to get attention.

It's little wonder we love shopping online for makeup.

Sometimes you need to feel a mascara wand up against your eye. You don't need to apply anything, just bask in its comfort.

Sometimes you need to feel a mascara wand up against your eye. You don't need to apply anything, just bask in its comfort. Photo: HELEN MCARDLE/SPL

David Jones and Myer have been battling overseas websites for years and it's in the beauty category that the battle is being fought most fiercely. We love our OS beauty websites far more the super-shiny, ear-banging beauty halls.

Cosmetics entrepreneur Napoleon Perdis has urged the department stores to put some money into hiring more sales assistants and training them properly. Perdis, on a visit from LA last week, said Australian staff were in desperate need of an education program that extended beyond how to use a cash register.

''Department stores are going to have to bite the bullet further with increasing staffing levels so that customers have reason to go into them,'' Perdis told Fairfax's Business Day this week. He knows what he's talking about. His cosmetics and makeup lines have penetrated middle America and last month he signed a deal with the luxury department stores Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman - the first such deal for an Australian brand.

Said Perdis: ''At the end of the day there has to be a major incentive for a woman to go to a department store and feel beautiful.''

We're very happy to buy our favourite moisturiser and lipstick online, thank you very much. Recent figures from the Commonwealth Bank show cosmetics and beauty have the second-highest penetration by overseas websites compared with other retail segments in Australia. Foreign sites take 88 per cent of market share.

What would it take for you to buy your beauty products at the bricks-and-mortar cosmetics counters? Despite the staffing problems, I love them. I like being able to see and feel the products and chat about their merits. I like the transformative makeup makeover that sends me on my merry shopping way.

How do you find the department store service and advice? When was the last time you shopped for makeup at Myer or DJs? What keeps you shopping online? What would make you change?

6 comments so far

  • I buy most of my clothes online, but still like to buy makeup in a shop. Colour and texture are important to me and I think the quality from the websites can be iffy. I always go to the Mac counter at Myer Doncaster - always lots of friendly, attentive, well-trained staff. Other areas of Myer though are dire. Many times I have walked away when wanting to buy something because there's no one to take my money let alone offer any product knowledge. With makeup good advice can save you money. If you buy what you need and it suits you it's fine to spend a little more per item.

    Commenter
    Siggy
    Date and time
    February 28, 2013, 3:08AM
    • One word. Mecca.
      The staff are exceptionally lovely, always willing to help, and know the products inside out. Spending $100 at Mecca on a product you know is right and will do the job is much smarter than wasting $50 on something at DJs or Myer you have blindly picked yourself.

      Commenter
      puttingitoutthere
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 8:52AM
      • To be honest, to me this story misses the point. I'm not saying poor service isn't an issue (though I've found the Sydney city beauty counters to have great service, barring Myers' MAC counter), but it's not the real reason shoppers are looking overseas. Australians receive a 61% markup on prices in beauty products across the board. Let me say that again - 61%. Just for living in Australia. When this is compared to the US and UK markets, it's not hard at all to see why Australians take their business elsewhere. In the US and UK, a $16 MAC lipstick is a $16 MAC lipstick - not subjected to conversation about exchange rates inflating or deflating price. In Australia, all sorts of reasons for the price hike come into discussion, but none of them answers the question all Australian consumers have in a satisfying way - why do we consistently pay so much more than our contemporaries in the Northern Hemisphere? Until this situation becomes more balanced, I'm afraid my money will go through the US markets and not Australian counters.

        Commenter
        AliceJ
        Date and time
        February 28, 2013, 9:22AM
        • It's a combination of poor service and pricing. Cosmetics are sooooo much cheaper from online overseas websites and there are ways to get the latest cosmetic launches shipped out to Australia via forward shipping business'.
          This week I was in DJ's and Myer and Mecca hoping to get some skincare and what ever make-up grabbed my attention. No one approached me and on the branded counters there were no staff in attendance. The dept stores just don't get!

          Commenter
          NatD
          Location
          St Kilda
          Date and time
          February 28, 2013, 11:54AM
          • Triedto buy a Laura Mercier product in DJ s. the assistant was doing a make up and ignored us until we rummaged around under the counter. Then I found it 1/3 cheaper online!

            Commenter
            maggie
            Date and time
            February 28, 2013, 3:47PM
            • The only benefit to bricks & mortar shopping is the product is instantly in your possession. But with the current scarcity of staff, even that's easier said than done. These days I have a rule: if I have to hover around a cosmetic stand for >5 mins without assistance, I leave. Staff attitude can also go a long way in customer retention. What should be a fun, enjoyable purchase can be turned into a miserable experience where you're made to feel like an annoyance to the bored, demotivated, disinterested or completely uneducated staff members. Once in Myers I enquired if they had mineral mascara in stock, of any brand. The makeup sales assistance actually laughed at me & said she'd never heard of such a product. When I have to start educating staff members on their own products, that's a deal-breaker & I go online (fyi: Khiels makes a great mineral mascara. You can buy it online).

              Commenter
              ingo
              Date and time
              February 28, 2013, 7:15PM

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