The New Selfridges Beauty Hall at Manchester Exchange Square: A Review or Lament

Selfridges is (was?) one of my favourite shops to amble through aimlessly after a hard day at work, and obviously my first love was the make up floor, which was at ground level, very handy, no trying to find the right lift (elevator) to take you down and back up again.  Second favourite department is food of course, especially the deli and their amazing queen olives.

Anyhoo, for some reason Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square (which is in the city centre) decided to re-vamp it’s beauty hall and give it a Londonstyle make over (ie. Lots more space, bigger counters) and moved it to the basement (bye bye olives).

Selfridges Beauty Hall Manchester | Beauty blog advice and tips Glamour com UK

The old brands are there like, MAC (who had a tremendous, eye catching spot previously in the corner of the ground floor, Bobbi Brown, Nars, Clinique, Clarins etc. and some new ones like Armani, Jo Malone, Illamasqua (previously only in the Trafford store) and 2 exciting exclusives to Manchester, Suqqu and Tom Ford (I know this off the top of my head, how sad?!).

There is also a new Fake Bake salon downstairs, the Blink brow bar (which I presume now will have a lot more room to play with).

As part of a £20 million pound investment, the stores new Beauty Hall has doubled in size to expand upon its previous offering, which was already renowned for its exclusive products, expertise and highly-stimulating experience.

So the beauty hall opened, and in typical Manchester style, a load of z-listers from Coronation Street attended.  I pretty much avoided it in the first few weeks; I was too busy, and not really interested in what a lot of the counters had to offer. I heard some horror stories from a few readers who had Tom Ford makeovers and said they came out looking like RuPaul (I’d actually love that) but still I didn’t have any urge to have a look.

Then this week (Tuesday!) I had an hour to kill after work and made my way into the store which was pretty unrecognisable.  The ground floor had become the handbag area; which, I love bags, but it didn’t feel comfortable to manoeuvre in at all.  I made my way down to the basement, which did look very spacious, nice warm lighting, not a fan of the flooring and lots…and lots….of space.
Yeah, there’s no doubting the old ground floor was ridiculously full but it was also really cosy, and there was a warmth to it.  The new ‘beauty hall’ has masses of space and feels incredibly cold.  So I looked around to get my bearings and see where my kinda brands were; there seems to be a lack of structure; I tend to see Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder in a similar section, MAC inevitably gets a big back wall (and they were the only busy counter I could see), Tom Ford is just plonked by the escalators with huge big stands that are intimidating to look at, and there’s a bit of Dior here (fragrance booth?) and a bit of Dior…somewhere else.

Cozy kitty

Suqqu, next to RMK, was a brand I was very excited to see in Manchester got one of the poorer counters although at least it seemed a bit less intimidating.  However there was something a bit naff about how all the products had clear sticky labels (like the ones you print out at home)…not really befitting of such a luxury, expensive brand.

Anyway, so let me talk a bit about the atmosphere.  As mentioned before the previous store had a cosy feel to it, this time there is almost too much room and space between each counter.  As I passed the Clarins end of the counters, the girls were yakking FAR TOO LOUDLY ARE YOU WEARING YOUR NEW SHOES OUT ON FRIDAY NIGHT STACEY*.

I went over to Chanel, for I had my eye on one of the new cream eyeshadows where there were three sales assistants, (2 ladies and a gent) staring into what I would describe as, the ether, as I sort of waggled a big, waiting for some help.

I continue to swatch, pull out a few lipsticks I might get too on my hand but even though there is absolutely no one else browsing not one of the 3 SAs can be bothered to ask me if I need anything.  As I walk away, irritated, one of the ladies approaches the mirror and tops up her make up.

So I start to wonder again…see everyone has comfort counters, and for me it used to be Nars (not gone off them just that my favourite member of staff left) so I started looking for a counter where perhaps someone could just crack a smile.

I browsed at Tom Ford…guy was too busy cleaning to notice me and I guess I didn’t feel like dropping £60 anyway on some powder, and a lady at YSL obviously saw the distress on my face and asked if I needed any help…bless her. If only I wanted something from, YSL.

Finally I wondered over to Armani, and decided their Eyes to Kill eyeshadows were FIERCE as was the red Megan Fox wore in the advert. A blonde gal comes over to ask if I need any help, and I ask which red Megan is wearing.  Now…can I just say….the young lady was wearing a very bold red lipstick and all I could stare at was the giant clumps of dry skin which were hanging off her lips like shards of glass around a vegetable patch. Not a good advert.

Cat sad shocked

Young lady shows me the red, quite a bright one so I um, and she pulls out and even deeper, deep blackened red so I say I’d prefer orange-reds instead. She looks huffy, puts the lipstick back into the display, and walks around to the other side. I think she’s going to show me an alternative colour and instead…I hear spritzing.  Cleaning has resumed and she didn’t even say goodbye.**

Needless to say I left…I didn’t know cosmetics were supposed to sell themselves and to be honest with so many other stores selling cosmetics (ONLINE! Boots give points, Debenhams do discounts, Space NK do high end luxe) I don’t know why you would go to Selfridges other than for the experience. Which at the moment, sucks balls.

*Not her real name

** I don’t actually expect her to say bye, but just anything would’ve been nice, like ‘I really have to get on with my cleaning now’

Updated 6.10pm: Confirmed the food hall has gone!!!

Updated 6.16pm: Harvey Nichols are moving their bag section to the back of the store and make up to the front (apparently) which is the opposite of what Selfridges have done.  The bag section of HN in the entrance is as cold as ice and has as much appeal as walking through Weatherspoons dressed as a Thai lady boy so – this is a clever move on HN’s part.

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  1. Rhamnousia says

    Firstly, LOL.

    Secondly, I swear that 99% of the Chanel SA’s have been taught to be dickheads. The ONLY Chanel counter where I actually get asked if I want help is the one in House of Fraser. The SA’s in the John Lewis one are TERRIBLE. Whenever I am there (and I’m on the only person), they see me and choose to ignore me. I remember once I was there and there was a lady just walking past and they spoke to HER instead of me, she was just trying to get past to the Molton Brown stuff.

    Thirdly, the Tom Ford counter in Selfridges in London is my WORST counter experience ever. I will never ever buy anything from Tom Ford after they way they treated me at their counter.

    The people at the NARS counter in Selfridges however are VERY helpful. I’m a bit of a pain to them though, I swatch things a million times but they’ve never once been bitchy..and that’s why I buy all my NARS stuff from that concession.

    I really dont’ understand why they’re so up themselves..they’re not brain surgeons.

    • Row says

      Hey Rhamnousia

      The Chanel SAs in Boots near me are quite old (nothing wrong with that) but they give me the ‘Oh child’ look. Reminds me of my old dinner ladies at school who were mean to the only Asian kid.

      I do think bad experiences will put you off a brand for a long long time. I have no desire to own anything from Armani now, not if I have to deal with these extremely silly SAs. I also like the Nars counter a lot in the Selfridges store though, they have a nice manager and I will go back there to see her from time to time. There was a great gal called Leena who worked on Nars and over the years I spent ££££££££££££££ on the counter because of her – because of her talent and attitude. Nars were thick and let her go to Illamasqua where she does really well…I must admit tho, I like Illa, but not the way I used to love Nars, but I would still go there to see her specifically cos a good SA is hard to find!

  2. says

    Even though I’m sure I’d ever get to go there (don’t really want to, now!) I really enjoyed this review b/c you are so funny, Row! I know what you mean, too, I MUCH prefer a cozier store! I get that they want the cosmetics to be like, revered museum pieces or something (whatevah), but the whole stuffy, intimidating luxury image feels very “old” to me, rather than “fresh and new” as this renovation was intended.

    • Row says

      Hi Sarah

      That’s a really good point actually; they seem to have changed what was a lovely cosy environment to a really stuffy, snobby, old school one (like Kendals!). When I was at Uni I worked for Benefit for errr 2 days (it was bad) and the Kendals House of Fraser beauty floor was hideous. Lots of bitchy bullies trying to intimidate new staff. Anyway this is what the new Selfridges floor reminded me off – by trying to be more high class, they’ve lost what made the old beauty floor nice – it was just more approachable!

  3. says

    Well that sounds like a delightful experience!

    What I don’t understand is whyyyy makeup salespeople think they can be so rude to customer for absolutely no reason?! Does working on a makeup counter give you some sort of pedestal you can perch upon and look down your nose at us mere mortals?!

    I’ve had so many occasions when I’ve been ignored or spoken to rudely, I can’t even begin to count. Perhaps it’s because I don’t look like I’m made of money, but you better believe I spend far more than the average person at a cosmetic counter!

    My last awful experience was at the YSL counter in Debenhams Oxford Street. The lady serving was an older woman and I guess the sight of me was too much for her. I asked her how much the new cream eyeliners were and she sort of scowled and snapped ‘£38!’ I must have looked rather surprised and said ‘just for the eyeliner?’ at which point I thought she may kill me and she managed to growl out ‘no that is with the brush because I thought you would need it! £20 on their own’ so sharply and rudely that I just walked out and didn’t give her my custom. Nor will I do so in the future. Silly bint!

    Anyway, I’m sorry you had those experiences – you know you’re not alone in them!

    • Row says

      Hey Nazia

      I know what you mean!!! For me, I go out a bit messy sometimes (err…I am casual I don’t dress up to get some milk, it’s just not my style) so I am sure some SAs think I don’t have the cash to spend They have no idea if they were nice and helpful I would definitely but, in fact I might buy something I don’t want just because they were so helpful!

  4. says

    The Clarins women in the huge boots near me are the same. And they once said very hurtful comments about my acne. I’m really weak when it comes to things like that, I started crying as soon as i left the store. LOL ;_;” Ever since I shop online. Boots never do good gift with purchases anyway, pfff.
    But several young women from various counters have always made me leave the store feeling poop.

    • Row says

      Hi Lucy and Sarah

      How rude – at the end of the day lots of people get spots but you have no idea what peoples experiences with it is. I remember my ex had terrible acne (to the point where he had steroids injected into his neck) and he was always paranoid about his scars even though I honestly didn’t think they were bad at all.

      If anyone ever does that make sure you tell them they’re being rude! People crumble when you stand up to them like that!

  5. Jen says

    omg I was pmsl reading your experience of the brand-spanking-new Selfridges experience!! I’ve not actually got round to visiting yet, and by the sounds of it I would be pretty disappointed with the makeover. I totally get what you mean about it being cosy before, even though the brands were fairly cramped together. And I think for the SA to be so rude and anti-customer is totally against the sort of image Selfridges are trying to promote. I can understand that some customers prefer not to be hounded whilst browsing, but when it’s blatantly obvious that you require assistance…:S And what happened with the SAs being trained in basic Mandarin and Chinese shopping habits…I’m expecting at a least one Ni Hao when I eventually get round to paying a vist lol

  6. says

    basically, i just wanted to say this post made me LOL. like proper lol, on numerous occasions! i loveee your reviews of places/experiences, NEVER STOP!

    • Row says

      Hi Sophie

      Yahhhh people must think I do these things deliberately, but you know that person who always gets themselves into stupid situations? That’s me.

  7. Zoe says

    Ha I must say I have had a giggle through your experience (it sounds like a comedy sketch,) but I would have been very annoyed if I were you.
    I work in an office by Piccadilly Gardens, so do not often wander upto to Selfridges. From the sounds of it I wont be either. I do most of my cosmetic shopping in Debenhams, and with the new Beauty Card I find myself often saving quite alot of money. I started my Christmas shopping last week and bought some Chanel for my sister, the lady was very friendly and gave me some samples to try myself (I didnt think samples existed any more.)
    Debenhams beauty area is alot nicer than a couple of years ago however the store does seem to suffer with staffing alot!!!!

    • Row says

      Hi Zoe

      I don’t really have any desire to go back to the counter now, unless I specifically want something because it’s not very loitering-browsing friendly, which is what I liked about the old beauty floor! I remember being able to redeem £5 from the Debenhams beauty card and that was rather cool!

  8. coco says

    Firstly, the staff in selfridges are all fully aware of who this **hilarious blogger is and cant wait fot her next visit to the store (** as funny as genital warts) Secondly ‘I wondered over to Armani’..? Surely you ‘wandered’..? ( i may only be an ‘up myself’ cosmetic girl, but at least I can spell)
    Thirdly, you dropped over 100 quid on Nars products on the visit that you’re referring to so the experience cant have been SO terrible.
    We can barely wait for your next visit.

    • Row says

      Hi Coco

      I am sure you have plenty of experience with genital warts – hope you sort that out.

      Secondly, as someone who was diagnosed with dyslexia a few months ago I’ve come to realize I will struggle occasionally when writing posts, with spelling. But at least I have a blog and I have readers and you have? Oh a great job in Selfridges. Great, glad you love it. Going to be a lot quieter after Christmas.

      Thirdly I spent the money on NARS because a friend of my mine works there and I don’t want to punish her just because of other crappy staff. And this person herself (plus a few girls over at Harvey Nichols who USED to work at Selfridges but were pushed out) had less than complimentary things to say about the new beauty floor.

      Don’t worry – if this is what their floor staff do in their spare time (and I can show this to the Selfridges PR) then I have no intention of spending any money ever again with Selfridges.

      Is it just me, or is there a theme at the moment with people from Scandinavia trolling Selfridges posts? Yawn.