I find Ulta really exciting because I am generally too poor for Sephora's brands and there aren't many other beauty stores around. I love the atmosphere of a beauty store...sometimes it's nice to shop for less costly makeup without a screaming brat knocking mascara off the shelf because some mom in the bread aisle lost track of her. I have not tried their salon or other services, so I cannot comment. The coupons are misleading because their prices are basically gouged and you break even. Who are they trying to fool? I always pay at least two dollars more per product here, so I don't really buy things I can get cheaper elsewhere...basically only go there for NYX cosmetics to avoid shipping costs and see the colors in person. I love NYX! It's also nice to walk around and sniff fragrances. I enjoy it. Overall, I am not super impressed by the products in their brand line, either. The eyeshadows, eyeliners, and mascaras I have tried are horrible.
I'm always surprised by all the negative reviews of Ulta I read online. Although I've never been to an Ulta except my local one, I've only really had positive experiences there. That's the short version of the review: give your local Ulta a shot, some of them are quite nice, though perhaps few judging from other reviews. Oh, but don't bother with the Salon.
The longer version:
I live in a really rural area and so my nearest Sephora is 90 miles away. No joke. I was a Sephora junkie, but I hated the crazy drive. When an Ulta opened up 15 miles from me, I had no idea what an Ulta was, thinking they were like a Bath and Body works. Imagine my surprise when I found out they sold beauty products, even some high end stuff! I do not have a Nordstrom, I do not have a MAC store, I do not have anything that isn't a two hour drive and finally I could get HE makeup and not pay crazy online shipping?
My experiences at the store have been, for the vast majority, positive. I've never been stalked by the staff (ok, maybe once or twice when I spent like two hours in the high end makeup, but for the most part no), and although the SAs aren't particularly knowledgeable about the products and sometimes hard to track down, I have found the sales and the return policy quite generous. I've never had trouble returning anything, even when it was opened, used, or without a receipt. The SAs encourage you to take something home, try it out, and promise that you can always return it, a promise they make good on. Once a close girlfriend of mine went on a crazy nail polish spree and seriously bought like $300 worth in one sitting. She ended up returning half of it, plus we were kinda in our swimsuits and all wet cuz we rushed there from the lake (long story), so the manager was glaring at us. But in the end she didn't say a single negative word, was polite and promptly rang up the return, even though we were keeping the store open a few minutes past close. (I know.. we're jerks. But it was a beauty emergency!!)
What they have in stock varies greatly. Sometimes they're out of the items I want, other times they have crazy good stuff that is sold out everywhere else. I got a NAKED palette when nowhere else had them. I think this is in part because they are located in such a rural area--- they don't restock as often as other stores because of a smaller customer base, but they also don't run out of certain things as quickly.
The SAs are a mixed bag, although I've had more good than bad experiences. There's one woman who's a total snob about HE stuff, and one manager that makes you feel bad about returning stuff by giving you the evil eye, but she doesn't say anything. The younger SAs are often nice and helpful and much more knowledgeable... I mean it's not like Sephora, where they know everything about the products, but at least they know what they do and do not carry.
Oh, and what everyone is saying about the samples that are out is true. They're absolutely ruined. But I talked to an SA about it and she said it was the crazy amounts of teenage girls that were coming in to play with the samples without ever intending to buy them... and I don't blame the staff for not being able to keep up. Apparently, only managers are allowed to put out samples and ring up returns. But they do have nice little counters set up where you can try stuff out with makeup sponges, Q-tips, tissues, makeup remover, all the works. Apparently not all Ultas have this but mine does.
A major plus is that they carry brands I don't see anywhere else. NYX, Palladio, and recently nail polishes from Butter London! I've seen people pay crazy international shipping for the Butter London polishes, so nice to be able to find them in a store.
The salon is a different story. I got a cut from the salon manager and although it wasn't awful, it was a standard boring textbook cut I could have done myself, and kind of uneven. I had to wait 10 minutes before the appointment started, even though I was on time, because she needed to go have a cigarette break right when I arrived... ok whatever... but the truly terrible thing happened when I went back a few days later to have my bangs fixed. The counter lady told me a bang trim would be $20... wtf??? and when I told her that was kind of unreasonable considering I had been in there only a few days ago and I was coming back to get my cut fixed, she sighed, said fine, she'd see what she could do, and finally got another stylist to fix my bangs all the while telling me that she's have to take the money for the bang trim out of the money my original stylist got for my cut. Wow... way to make me feel guilty and like crap.
I have patronized Ulta intermittently for many years. Overall, I have found the store to my liking, with a large selection of products at average prices. The courtesy of the staff has varied but that is true with almost any establishment. Some people just do not have the personality to work retail sales. One needs to be patient and at least be able to fake interest in the customer. Some companies are just more careful to hire staff with suitable personalities than are other concerns. Ulta does offer frequent sales and coupons.
Why are so many people bashing on Ulta? I always thought it was a great store. Like any other chain store, customer service will vary depending on where you live. I have been to several different Ulta's in the Houston area, two in the Chicagoland area, one in Tennessee,one in Alabama and I have never had any problem. I like the fact that I am able to get my perfume, hair products, drugstore, and mid end makeup in one place. I have seen Ulta put prestige brands like Urban Decay and Stila on sale. That's something Sephora does not do as often. They also send me emails and coupons to my house which is convienent.
I will start by saying i am biased because I work at ULTA.
I find it horrible that so many people have had such bad experiences at their local store and it tarnishes the reputation of other stores that are clean,well stocked,and have friendly staff. I completely understand some of the complaints from the customer point of view as i was a customer for years before being an employee. However some people really should sit back and look at the situation from a retail employee point of view. The first situation is the "following around" thing, I know it is annoying and in some rare occasions it might even be embarrassing if they are extremely obvious ( in which case it is normal to be mad , i would be) however the reason is shoplifting, we as employees have been told to keep and eye out for certain things prestige cosmetics and fragrances are our biggest losses, we may not think you are stealing but we must watch everyone in those areas. I know from personal experience it may also be that you are one of the few people in the store and I am just bored so I tend to check on you more. Another big complaint seems to be coupons. Look people, coupons are a gift not a right, quit complaining about some coupons. Read the fine print, on ALL coupons not just the ones from ULTA. I know it sucks that they cannot be used on prestige 99% of the time but if your patient and your that picky about them wait till those 2-3 times a year when you get the one that is good on pretty much the whole store. Coupons are great dont get me wrong but it kills me how people have begun to think they are entitled to them. That is something I have believed in long before I began working for the company. Next is the "snotty/rude/b!tchy" employees, you get good service and you get bad service everywhere I thankfully have the pleasure of working with a great group of ladies, there are some that are not always pleasant but everyone has bad days(not that that should excuse them from being polite to a customer).
I wish more stores had friendlier employees like mine because that seems to be the major complaint , i have witnessed this myself, but I have had the same problem at Sephora and pretty much any retail store for that matter some people are very helpful and friendly others are not.
I could go on for days about the multiple complaints that people have made but might see differently if they knew how things worked and what we can and cannot do as employees but I think my biggest message to people is dont boycott the whole company because you had a bad experience with one employee there are plenty of us that are friendly and willing to help.
(I gave neutral scores since i am biased)
I just got an Ulta here ( I live North of Boston) and I was so happy when it opened. I go to Ulta just to buy NYX products. In the first few weeks of opening, Ulta was always well stocked and constantly introducing new NYX products. Maybe it is because NYX is so popular, or it is out of laziness, but NYX is rarely fully stocked and some products have been missing for weeks now, but are still advertised. That is my major complaint about Ulta, I can't say too much about the SA's because I usually know what I am looking for and don't need their help. Ulta has great deals, buy 2 get 1 free runs pretty much all the time here.
I am agreeing with the love/hate. I live in the south, where generally everyone is super friendly....unless you work at Ulta! Lol! Granted, not ALL of the assosciates are rude---but I'd say about 2 out of 5 are...and if you're running a business, you want ZERO out of five to be rude! Some associates will walk up and say "can I help you find anything?" and others will look you dead square in the eye and not offer any type of assistance whatsoever. The prices on drugstore brands are a little on the high side, I only buy drugstore from there if I DESPERATELY need it and I have been to all 4 walmarts in my area to make sure they're all out, too. Lol For instance, my CG foundation is about 7.50 at Walmart, and it's 8.99 at Ulta. Not much, but when youre a broke college student, it is! :) Anyway, I will leave my review w/a small story about Ulta. One of the managers at ours is Cruella de Vill herself!! Once, she was checking me out (after she hadn't greeted me or anything, just grabbed my stuff and started ringing!!), and someone came over the intercom and said "Tamara come to the salon for ewfiowjmwiof2" (I didnt catch the end part..I didn't need to since my name wasn't Tamara!) Tamara said to me, "what'd she say?!" I said "She said you needed to go to the salon" and then she said "well that helps me a LOT. what else did she say?" I said "I didnt catch the end of it." She then proceeded to say "Jesus Christ." IDK if she meant for me to hear it or not, but whatever. I went on my way. Then, on ANOTHER trip, I got that same Tamara (boy she was a peach!) checking me out at about 8:50 or so (our Ulta closes at 9) and two girls walked in and instead of saying "Welcome to Ulta!" which is what they usually say, Tamara said "we're closed. SORRY!" at TEN TILL NINE! I thought it was VERY rude and professional. If they're closed, LOCK THE DOORS! haha, anyway, I will get off of my soap box now. I have definitely had more negative experiences than positive, yet I still go back because they're always the first stores to have new products!
The Ulta Store in my town is a HORRIBLE!! This is probably too long, but I'm so peved at Ulta. Sephora is 100 miles away :(
I gave my sis a $25.00 gift certificate for her birthday and we went together to spend her cert & I was going to do a NYX haul.
Right before Xmas 2010 the store moved from their original place to a strip mall across the street. The new store is 1/2 the size of their original store and the stock of products reflects this.
In their old place, the makeup was lined up/placed according to brand. All the Ulta products in one place, Cover Girl, Revlon, and so on, so you could easily find all the products in one line. Now it's laid out on the "type of product" Foundation/Lips/Cheeks. What a mess and I hate it. Can't find anything easily. You spend all your time between isles, running back n forth.
Like I said, I wanted to do a haul on NYX, (lippes/eyeshadow) but they only had a 1/3 of a shelf of NYX and many of the shades were sold out or not re-stocked. I'm not bothering to look in the drawers under the stands, if the SA's are too lazy to check the shelf and restock from the drawers, why should I look there? I would never have to do that at Walgreens, CVS, or Walmart!!
Hello Ulta, you're suppose to be a makeup store, not a drugstore or a Big Lots!! Stock your products or don't advertise you have them!!
Now, on to the high end make up on the other side of the store: Another mess!! I know people swatch samples, but it looked like the samples and the areas around the samples haven't been cleaned or at least wiped up in months. Everthing looked gross and nasty, I wouldn't swipe any of the samples at all!! The Urban Decay display was the worst.
Really, it looked like kids were playing the makeup all day and wasn't cleaned up. (We went at 1PM-so it wasn't like we were there 5 minutes before closing). It grossed me out so much that even if I wanted to buy, I wouldn't because I couldn't get pass the unsanitary conditions. I didn't see any swabs or tissues, I assume everyone was using their fingers and it looked like it. At some point, samples should be swaped out for new ones when they get looking gross.
At the check out: SA asked if we found everything. My sis: No, you don't have my color in Cover Girl foundation. SA: I get someone to help you.
So the other SA went back to the Cover Girl, looked on the shelf, dug in the drawer, and announced that they don't EVER stock that shade of foundation (Soft Honey, which my sis and I have bought a Walgreens, CVS, & Walmart forever).
That was the final straw! As a makeup store, you don't stock a color that has been always stocked at a drugstore??
My sis only spent $5 out of her $25, they didn't have other stuff she wanted either. I felt really bad, here I give her $25 to spend on makeup at Ulta and it was a complete waste of time. I really should of gave her $25 to CVS, at least there she could of bought what she wanted/needed and spent all of it.
If I give anymore certificates for makeup it will be Sephora. If I need to go to a "makeup store" it will be Sephora. I so wish a Sephora was closer than 100 miles away. In my town, Sephora would put Ulta out of business in 1 month!! I will never recommed Ulta to anyone. What a dump!!!
Wow. After reading all of the comments about the Ulta experience in general, I really had to chime in. I want to preface this by saying that this is only MY opinion based on my needs and preferences--I know that there are a lot of you out there that love this store and have no problem giving them your business. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
I live in Central NJ and live about 25 miles away from the nearest Sephora, so I rarely get an opportunity to shop there. When I found out an Ulta was opening up in the Princeton area I was thrilled as my impression at the time was that Ulta was basically a clone of the Sephora shopping experience. I quickly learned that it wasn't after experiencing the following:
1. I've never had a problem with a SA being rude, but boy are they persistent. During one store visit they interrupted me three times in 15 minutes, and it got to the point where I had to keep out of the common areas of the store to be left alone. Ironically enough, when I wandered into the "prestige" skin care section, a sales rep from one of the skin care lines was there doing some kind of product promotion. When she looked up and saw me (let's just say I wasn't looking too photogenic that day) I could see in her eyes that apparently I wasn't the right "demographic" for the product and and I was ignored. So much for wanting to "help" me.
2. Speaking of "prestige," when I made my first couple of purchases at Ulta I requested samples and they were given to me. The next time I asked for a sample I was told that I was only entitled to them if I purchased a "prestige" brand. That's a little freakin' ridiculous. Sephora has always given me samples regardless of the brand I've purchased, and I can name examples of other stores as well. Ulta needs to get off their high horse with their whole "prestige" attitude when it comes to makeup assistance, coupons, samples, etc. because frankly, I can probably get the same "prestige" product at a much better price at an online retailer, eBay, or a brick-and-mortar store. Get a clue, Ulta: asking for samples is not a big deal, I'm not saying I should just walk in off the street and ask for them without buying something, but if you had given me a sample that day, perhaps I would have come in and bought the product during a later visit. Gee, isn't that what samples are for, to generate more purchases? And then perhaps more customers will interested in purchasing more of those "prestige" brands that you have such an attitude about. Everyone wins! (Pardon my snark.)
3. Here's another clue, Ulta: when you mark an item as "clearance" and throw it into a bin with a whole bunch of other stuff that may be cracked, smeared, or leaky, it truly needs to be a "clearance" level price. Please walk the few steps over to Walmart or Target to learn what a realistic idea of a "clearance" price means, because yours isn't it.
4. Speaking of the above, plus CVS, Walgreens, RiteAid, etc., as many of you have already mentioned, if you wear drugstore makeup you'll pay much less at those types of stores, and the discount stores have great sales and coupons also. Some drugstores even have no-questions-asked return policies on makeup now, even if you've tested it. Same goes for the bath/body/personal care products--Burt's Bees, Bodycology, Watkins, Badger, etc., all can be found cheaper elsewhere.
5. I had a brow wax at the Ulta salon that had me bent back over a shampoo sink, then after the wax was removed, there was just a little tweezing here and there, no shaping or trimming. Thankfully I had a half-off coupon for this because this service normally costs a whopping $20. Granted, the stylist did a great job and was extremely professional, but in my neck of the woods $20 gets you a brow wax done in a private room on a TABLE, with tweezing and shaping. I certainly wasn't expecting a day spa experience, but if I want to be bent over a shampoo sink to get waxed I can go to a nail salon and pay $8.
I can see why someone would want to shop here if they truly enjoy the convenience of having so many varied brands and price points of beauty items in one store, or if they have an "I-want-this-NOW!" item (like Urban Decay's Naked) that they don't want to wait to order online. (No disrespect meant--I've been there! :) ) Otherwise, I just can't fathom any reason to shop there. Let's face it, we all the know the markup on beauty products and I would rather spend money with a company that values my business and gives me a pleasant, uncomplicated shopping experience. In my opinion, Ulta doesn't provide it, which is why I take my business elsewhere.
EDIT: I recently went back to Ulta (a coupon lured me in) and I'm pleased to say that the overalll vibe of my local store has improved. I had a much more pleasant shopping experience and I was even able to find a few goodies in the clearance bin! I still prefer Sephora but I'm glad that Ulta & I are on better terms now :)
I shop at Ulta about once a month when I have a coupon and need some basics, like my cleanser or makeup wedges. I can understand why some people dislike the restrictions on the coupons, but I rarely buy from the "prestige" side of the store anyway, so it's really not too big of a deal to me.
As far as the SAs, I have had a mixed bag of experiences in this regard. I have come across some very nice ones, as well as some very rude ones. When I went in to purchase the PTR Unwrinkle Peel Pads, the SA at the register gave me 20% off of them without my even asking, even though I had no coupon with me and that item would have normally been restricted. That was a wonderful surprise! Although, at that same store, I had a really bad experience with another SA who basically insulted my face in what I can only assume was an attempt to push skincare products. So, much like life, some people are nice and some are not.
I like the way the stores are set up, the variety of products offered, and I also have always found Ulta to be clean and well-kept. I have returned items there with no issue whatsoever. Overall, I like the store and will continue to shop there.