French beauty giant Sephora has stopped offering custom makeovers in hundreds of stores as a precautionary measure to protect customers and staff from the highly contagious coronavirus.
A company spokesperson told Inside Retail the service had been temporarily suspended and online bookings had been disabled in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and the Asia region until further notice.
“In view of the ongoing 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation, Sephora would like to reiterate that the health and wellbeing of their customers and cast members (Beauty Advisors) is of paramount importance,” the spokesperson said.
Sephora has approximately 200 stores in the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India, according to the retailer’s website. Sephora opened its first store in New Zealand last year.
The news comes amid reports that over 900 people in mainland China have died from the Coronavirus, surpassing the death toll from the 2012 SARS epidemic. Fifteen people are reported to be infected in Australia, and some universities have delayed the start of the academic year to help prevent contagion. Earlier this month, the Australian government banned foreign travellers from entering the country via China.
Until now, the biggest impact of the coronavirus on Australian retailers had been in the supply chain, as many factory workers in China reported staying home rather than risk being exposed to the disease. Nick Scali last week said it could not update its FY20 guidance in part due to uncertainty over the effect of the coronavirus on stock levels.
Local retailers that rely on Chinese tourists, including luxury brands as well as businesses that cater to daigous, such as AuMake, have also suffered.
But Sephora’s suspension of custom makeover services suggests the continued spread of the coronavirus could have far-reaching effects on a wider range of retailers.
A spokesperson for Priceline told Inside Retail it has no plan to suspend its beauty services at this stage. Myer and David Jones were contacted for comment, but did not immediately reply.
While most retailers are treating the coronavirus seriously and focusing on the health concerns, there have been some reports of businesses capitalising on consumers’ fears and promoting xenophobic attitudes.
A Harvey Norman store in Albury, Victoria, over the weekend was promoting its mattresses as being Australian made and therefore free from the coronavirus, according to News.com.au.
Harvey Norman immediately contacted the store, which it said was run by a franchisee, asked them to remove the sign and told them the behaviour was unacceptable, according to a tweet.