And lo, the universe smiled upon Tikahtnu Commons, and there was Ulta, and we saw that it was good. Finally, Ulta has arrived in Alaska, with locations in Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Anchorage location has a grand opening event scheduled for the weekend (beginning 10 a.m. Friday), but the store had a soft opening last week. I swung through on a Tuesday evening to give it a first look.
There’s also a Benefit brow bar, to which I plan a visit in the near future, and a salon (you can book online).
At first blush (see what I did there?), Alaska’s first Ulta looks good. It feels a little on the small side compared to some of the Ultas I’ve been to in other states, but it’s a vast improvement over no Ulta at all. When I visited, the store definitely felt like it was in soft-open mode — there were displays that weren’t yet complete and a few stacks of products still in boxes. The word is out that it’s open, though — already marked-down OPI nail polishes were sold out, along with entire colors of some products (hope no one wants a BareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Cream Eyeshadow in Soft Linen or a Too Faced Melted Liquefied Long Wear Lipstick in Melted Ruby).
The staff didn’t seem to be particularly present, which seemed strange given that the store wasn’t really busy during my visit. I was never approached by a salesperson, and the first exchange I had with anyone who worked there was when I went to the counter to check out.
The good news: With the odd exception (like a headband that was marked $10 in-store but showed up as $4.99 when I scanned it in the Ulta app), prices seem to be in line with national Ulta prices. A Mario Badescu starter set that scanned at $30 and was marked $30 is also priced $30 at Ulta.com; a bottle of drying lotion that’s $17 on Ulta.com is also $17 in the Anchorage store; and Ulta Beauty Smoothie products were priced the same in-store as they are online. Refreshing, considering in the Target on the other side of the shopping center, everything in the store is marked up considerably over the Lower 48 price.
Checkout service was a little slow but reasonably friendly, and I got an unexpected 20 percent off my entire purchase in addition to some other markdowns, which got me out of the store at just over $100.
Truth be told, as excited as I was when Sephora opened in Anchorage, I’m more thrilled to have Ulta. I like the mix of prestige and drugstore brands, the wide range of hair and nail products, the weekly specials, the brands no one else in town carries… plus, Ulta has improved their UltaMate rewards program so instead of earning things like salon services (that I could never use because there was no Ulta locally and the rewards always had short expiration periods; soooo many wasted loyalty points), you actually earn store credit. It’s a vast improvement.
Welcome, Ulta. You’ll be seeing me… again and again and again.