How To Shop For Beauty In Department Stores (And The Tricks They Use To Make You Spend!)

Department stores are designed to make us spend; their beautifully bright halls can make us feel weak at the knees, the temptation to spend feeling somewhat overwhelming – and it’s no surprise. Floor plans, salesperson strategies and clever up-selling tactics may feel like an extension of the whole experience at the time, but upon retrospect it’s easy to see where we may have been coerced into opening our purses more times than we initially anticipated. So how can we step into a department store and enjoy the experience, without handing over bundles of cash and coming away with bags full of things we don’t really need? How can we play salespeople at their own game and ensure we spend wisely, take advantage of promotions and leave the store with items we truly will cherish? I’ve got some top tips to share that I hope will make you savvier and even more pleased with the purchases you do eventually make.

If you’re stepping onto counter, be prepared with a mental list of items you need and those that you don’t. Try not to be persuaded into buying something because it’s on offer, new or a ‘best seller’ – unless you would buy it after shopping alone in Boots. The salespeople are there to help you make good decisions and ensure you pick the products that work for you, but they’re also there to make sales and commission; like with any industry there are great and not-so-great examples, but it’s worth taking what they say with a pinch of salt and using your common sense.

Really tempted by that bright blue eyeliner or bold berry lipstick you wouldn’t normally have chosen? Take a couple of days to mull it over and think about whether you actually need it; if you’ve just been swept away in the excitement of the moment and realistically would never use it once you got it home, leave it on the shelf. What may seem like a great idea when surrounded by people that live and breathe skincare and makeup, when you get home and show your mates it may seem like a waste of money.

How many times have you been
colour matched in store and realised that in natural light that
foundation is actually better suited to half the TOWIE cast during their
annual escapade to Marbella? Rather than agreeing to a sale there and
then, ask for a sample to take home and use in your own time to ensure
it meets your expectations (and more importantly, your skin tone!) Most
counters will happily decant product into a little pot for you to take
away, or offer sachets or mini sizes so you can really become a convert;
if they’ve done their job properly, you’ll fall in love with it
regardless and return to purchase the full size at a later date.

All of the offers and deals aren’t always displayed on counter, as many of them disrupt the premium look and feel of the display. Ask the sales assistant if there are any current promotions, offers or discounts available and how you can qualify – because there could be a stonking offer you’d never know about otherwise.

They can be your best
friend or your worst enemy – it’s how you work with them that’s
important. If you visit a particular store or counter regularly, take it
as an opportunity to forge a relationship and ensure they remember you.
Introduce yourself and ask questions, making sure they know you’re
there to learn and make serious purchases; the next time you’re in store
they may let you know when a great new product is hitting stores before
anyone else, when the next fab offer or free gift is available, or the
best way to save money and still look fabulous. 

If you need to re-jig your look or don’t know the best way to create a smokey eye, book in for an appointment and take advantage of the lessons and makeovers that are usually free of charge. This is an opportunity to really learn how to use the tools they’re offering, as well as identifying the steps that will just add faff in the morning (therefore saving you some money.) Many makeovers or appointments also offer mini products included for a small fee (that’s often redeemable against a purchase,) so do your research and see how you can take advantage of a brand’s need to turn you into a loyal customer.

It’s not only Boots that offers up loyalty points for purchases in store. Everyone from House of Fraser to Liberty and Harrods incentivise customers to sign up to their database and start collecting points; not only does this usually provide a kick-back or credit to spend in store further down the line, but often means money-off vouchers and unique discounts that will help save you money too. Ask in store or sign up online before you visit to reap the benefits.

Do you work in a department store and have any advice for customers, or are you a savvy shopper and have any other tips to share?

Special mention to the starring lip product, YSL Vernis à Lèvres Vinyl Cream (£26.00 each), which offer a fab high-shine glossy stain result. Available in all department stores now. Lolz. 

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  



  1. Vivian Yuen
    September 28, 2016 / 10:27 am

    The asking for samples tip is so useful! I always forget to do that and impulse buy…Vivian | LIVE . IN . LOVE ~

  2. Hayley Daley-Hannibal
    September 28, 2016 / 3:49 pm

    great tips

  3. Philippa
    September 28, 2016 / 6:18 pm

    Great tips – it's way too easy to get carried away when everything is so tempting!Philippa x

  4. Toni Robinson
    September 28, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    Some great tips here Hayley. Unfortunately for me, when it comes to acquiring foundation samples, it's like getting blood out of a stone. I was frustrated so much that I wrote a whole blog post on the subject. Xxsheergloss

    • Hello Jennifer Helen
      October 6, 2016 / 11:55 am

      I'd love to see that post!

  5. WineAnd Whine
    October 1, 2016 / 3:03 pm

    Department store beauty shopping makes me so so nervous, i like to do it alone sometimes x

  6. Hello Jennifer Helen
    October 6, 2016 / 11:56 am

    I've fallen foul of not getting a foundation sample before! Now I always ask for one. Last time I asked at Charlotte Tilbury they told me they had run out though :-(JH |

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