Monday, July 25, 2011

My First Trip to a Murale

On Thursday, I checked out Murale, Shopper’s version of Sephora, for the first time. It was calm, uncluttered and a bit disappointing when it came to its product mix.

I went to the one in West Edmonton Mall, which, for a cloudy July day, was quite quiet. Murale itself was even quieter and with its white walls and well-spaced, white display units, the whole place felt quite serene. So in other words, it had a very different atmosphere than the Eaton Centre’s Sephora, which is consistently crowded and noisy.

Because Sephora’s always so busy as well as packed with stuff, I find that you can’t fully browse it. Murale though seems designed for browsing. It’s very open, the display units are a friendly size and almost every product has a tester. There are also several clean, well-placed “tester supply” stations that are fully stocked with items like Kleenex and Q-tips. I know that Sephora has similar stations but the ones at Murale really impressed me with their tidiness and convenient placement.

Murale, at least the one is West Ed, also carries fewer products and lines than the Sephora, which results in the store feeling less overwhelming than Sephora and this I find encourages browsing.

However, it does mean that Murale carries fewer products than Sephora, something that might turn some people off. Personally, I was OK with the overall number of products that the store had; it was the lines it was carrying that disappointed me.

While Murale doesn’t mirror Sephora’s selection completely, there are a lot of duplicates, including Clinique, Smashbox, Dr. Brant, Lancome and Benefit. Personally, I would have like to have seen Murale filled with brands that Sephora, and even Shoppers itself, doesn’t carry. However, I do understand why from a bottom-line view, carrying just unestablished brands might not be the best idea.

Besides having fewer customers and product lines, Murale also has fewer clerks and this is a great thing. One of my issues with Sephora is that it seems like every 30 seconds a staffer is asking if you need help, something I find a bit annoying.  At Murale, I was asked if I needed help as soon as I walked in the store but after that, only one other clerk approached me. It was quite refreshing.

While I didn’t sit down with any of the clerks, my sister, who I was with, did and she was quite happy with the service she received. And since the store was so calm, it was actually an enjoyable experience.

Currently, Toronto’s only Murale is out in Don Mills and while I like Murale, it’s not good enough to warrant a car trip. However, if say, the Eaton Centre got one, I would definitely stop by it before I went to Sephora since I really its atmosphere (though I suspect that an Eaton Centre Murale would be busier than the West Ed one).

And here’s another reason why I would pick Murale over Sephora: Optimum points. All Murale purchases do earn Optimum points and yes, Murale does run various bonus promotions, including everyone’s favourite, 20x the points.
Unfortunately the bonus kick-in point for those promos seems to be higher at Murale than a regular Shoppers (on Thursday, you had to spend $100 to be 20x the points) but there’s enough good stuff in these stores that it’s not very hard to reach it.

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