Why attracting Sephora is great news for Newcastle city centre

Next upsizing to the old Newcastle Debenhams was the main headline, but Sephora also opening nearby is arguably the really big news

Though Next upsizing to a large part of the old Debenhams space is a really positive vote of confidence in the city, the news about beauty retailer Sephora opening in Newcastle is actually for me an even bigger deal.

A real coup

With more than 2,700 stores across 35 countries, Sephora is a global brand that generates incredible enthusiasm, loyalty and online engagement from its customers, and it’s a real coup for the city and the region that Newcastle will be the first city centre in the UK to get a Sephora store, and only the fourth location anywhere in the country.

Sephora made its UK store debut last year at the huge Westfield Stratford and White City schemes in London, and a third shop is on the way at the out-of-town Trafford Centre near Manchester.

Sephora did briefly trade in the UK before, opening and closing nine high-street and shopping centre stores between 2000 and 2005, but both the business and the retail landscape have changed beyond recognition since then.

Under the ownership of French luxury group LVMH, Sephora has really honed the stylish and uplifting quality of its instore experience, as well as gaining a reputation for both its own-brand ranges and exclusive big-name collaborations.

At the same time, the loss of Debenhams and other UK department stores has left a beauty-shaped hole that Sephora can now occupy, with rivals like Boots just failing to offer the glamorous experience that modern shoppers demand and expect.

Customers don’t mind shopping online for beauty products they already know and use, but if you’re looking for something new there’s no substitute for being in a gorgeous bricks-and-mortar store where you can try products out and benefit from great advice and customer service.

I was in Singapore recently, where Sephora has 11 stores, and if the Newcastle shop looks half as good as what I saw there then we’re really in for a treat.


In recent years we have seen Eldon Square lose quite a few big names, like Debenhams, Topshop and Paperchase, that have disappeared from high streets everywhere, but the positive thing to note is how resilient the centre seems to be in attracting new retail names at the same time as reinventing itself with a wider range of leisure and other uses.

Indeed, my understanding is that entertainment uses will occupy at least part of the existing unit that Next will vacate when it upsizes.

Meanwhile, the presence of the new Next flagship and Sephora store in St Andrew’s Way will surely be the impetus that is needed to finally fill the ex-Topshop unit, and really cement that end of the shopping centre as the city’s primary fashion and beauty destination.

In the older part of the mall, the recent relocation of Beaverbrooks and closure of Lakeland has left two particularly prominent voids, but being aware of some of the well-known brands that are still looking for space in the city centre I can’t imagine that those locations will stay vacant for long.


Ultimately, Eldon Square is an attractive place for retailers to trade because it is well managed, clean and safe, and benefits from excellent footfall.

Alongside its “new partnership” with Eldon Square, I hope Newcastle City Council, working with other partners such as Newcastle NE1, will give renewed attention to how it can make sure the wider city centre is just as appealing a place to trade and visit, by improving its cleaning regimes, tackling long-term grot spots, and ensuring that the whole of Newcastle city centre is a sparkling destination we can all be proud of.

Edit, 9 April 2024: Sephora has just officially (re)announced its Newcastle opening – did Eldon Square jump the gun? – with the additional surprise that it is opening a store at Metrocentre in Gateshead too.

So, both the fourth and fifth Sephora UK stores will be on Tyneside, which is an even bigger coup for the region than we thought a few weeks ago!

Got something to add? Post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.