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Sephora rolls out smaller-store concept with high-tech beauty upgrades

  • The studios will be about 2,000 square feet, less than half the size of a typical 5,500-square-foot Sephora store.
  • Sephora described the venture as planting its "smallest footprint" in the country, and these new locations will be freestanding.
  • Sephora said its smaller studios are going to feature digital components and customized makeovers.
A general view inside the Sephora store before it opens the doors to its Westfield Pitt Street Mall store on December 5, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. This is the first Sephora store to open in Australia.
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Sephora said it's planting its "smallest footprint" in the U.S. yet with the launch of freestanding makeup studios.

The beauty retailer announced plans Friday to roll out the new Sephora Studio concept across the U.S., with the first location opening in Boston this week. The studios will be about 2,000 square feet, less than half the size of a typical 5,500-square-foot Sephora store.

"In today's retail environment, where very little is constant and clients' expectations are ever-evolving, one thing has remained true for [Sephora]: there is no better way to create meaningful connections with clients than through personalized experiences and a customized approach to beauty," Calvin McDonald, CEO of Sephora Americas, said in a statement about the launch.

"We could not be more focused on that notion than we are with the opening of [Sephora] Studio," he said. "The Studio merges the best of an inclusive neighborhood retail environment with best-in-class digital tools that enable our expert beauty advisors to customize recommendations on an individual basis."

This is the next "logical step" for Sephora, GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders told CNBC. "Smaller stores give Sephora an opportunity to reach new neighborhoods and potentially new audiences."

Sephora said its smaller studios will be located outside of malls and are going to feature digital components and more curated experiences for shoppers during their visits. Order-in-store and same-day pickup options for online purchases will also be available there.

"The smaller stores' focus on beauty services is right and taps into consumer demand," Saunders added.

As foot traffic has been waning at many brick-and-mortar retail locations of late, retailers are looking for ways to bring shoppers back. Sephora hopes to do that by offering on-demand one-on-one services — 45-minute makeovers and 15-minute mini facials — at its new studios.

Additionally, the Sephora Studio will be the first store to offer what the beauty retailer is calling a 75-minute "Custom Makeover Plus."

"The truth is, there are many locations without easy access to Sephora, but where beauty products and services sell well, at players like Ulta," Saunders said. A freestanding Sephora Studio will now present "a threat for other players, but a great opportunity for Sephora," he said.

Today, Sephora operates roughly 2,300 stores globally.