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Sephora reaches out to west Bakersfield with new building at Shops at River Walk

A single Sephora store hasn't been enough to serve Bakersfield since the Parisian beauty and personal-care retailer opened a second location in Valley Plaza in fall 2016.

Now it looks like two isn't sufficient, either.

The chain is preparing to take over half of an 8,000-square-foot building under construction on the north side of Stockdale Highway in The Shops at River Walk. The store is expected to open in July.

Sephora's future home next to BevMo! gives it a strong presence in a part of town with a more upscale, mature demographic than that of Valley Plaza.

An employee said part of the plan is to emphasize skin- and hair-care instead of makeup and fragrances that are the focus in Sephora's larger location at the indoor mall.

Estimated to take another month of construction work, the new store is also seen as providing a benefit to The Shops at River Walk in terms of foot traffic and a wider clientele.

Scott Thayer, senior vice president at Castle & Cooke California Inc., the shopping center's developer and property owner, said the other half of the new building will be occupied by a complementary tenant he was not at liberty to identify.

He added that another, similarly compatible business will soon open nearby and that it, too, wishes to remain anonymous for now.

"This particular group of tenants that we're working with will certainly bring a different customer, or will bring more traffic to the shopping center, which will help all the tenants," Thayer said.

The chain opened its first Bakersfield store in Valley Plaza in spring 2007. A little more than nine years later it added a small location inside the mall's JC Penney.

Sephora was founded in 1969 and has more than 2,500 stores. The nearest to Bakersfield are its two in Fresno, one in Santa Clarita and one in San Luis Obispo.

A spokeswoman for Sephora declined to comment Wednesday.

Several factors may play into Sephora's local strategy, said Scott Underhill, partner at Bakersfield commercial real estate firm ASU CRE Partners Inc.

Retailers constantly reinvent themselves, he said, and opening a store in west Bakersfield may be intended as Sephora's response to e-commerce pressure on mall locations.

The local expansion may also help Sephora serve the distinct demographics in central and western Bakersfield, he said, noting it's not unusual for retailers to cater their local inventories to suit different groups of shoppers.

"Retailers are constantly fine-tuning their business model," Underhill said. "They've got to follow the money."

Sephora's three Bakersfield locations will carry a slightly different inventory of products, said Haley, an employee who declined to provide her last name. The largest of the three, on Stockdale, will deal more in skin care and hair products, she said, while the larger Valley Plaza location will continue to merchandise more for makeup and fragrance sales.

The idea is to "accommodate clients that we wouldn't otherwise," she said, adding that hiring for the new store has already begun.

Editor's note: This story has been revised to reflect where construction is happening along Stockdale Highway.