In case you missed it, Sephora launched the UK’s only bricks-and-mortar store in London’s Westfield White City last month with a star-studded media event; the literal Sugababes gave a private performance, and huge names within the beauty industry paid a visit (cough, Danessa Myricks, cough) during the four days of customer events that followed.

Meanwhile, at Boots HQ, it would seem that Seb James – the Senior Vice President, President and Managing Director of Boots (according to their website) – was mid-sabotage and scheming. Speaking at Retail Week Live, James gushed about Boots’ recent increase in market share. When explaining how Boots remains such a key player within the beautysphere, he said, “In the nicest possible way, if your competitors are struggling, put the boot in.”

While we can appreciate a good pun, he continued with, “And there’s nothing like the feeling that I get in one of my stores when a new competitor opens up in the [same] mall.

“We had one [Sephora] recently in Westfield, and our whole team lent into the idea of making that launch a disaster.”

“And as a result, a whole flock of new customers came to Boots. It was very exciting.”

“We grew 85% on the day. And the general message that was going around my store was ‘up yours Sephora’ and that felt very, very good.”

From what we can figure out, their sabotage campaign consisted of revamping their Westfield White City store and holding a launch party to clash with Sephora’s big moment, while also posting a huge billboard outside the centre with the words “Your no.1 destination for beauty” emblazoned on it.

While these tactics in themselves aren’t hugely shocking, James’ attitude went down amongst the public and industry’s veterans like a lead balloon. When the news was posted by Cosmetics Business on Instagram, Caroline Hirons – who’s known for her no-nonsense approach to the industry and hailed as the “queen of skincare” by the Guardian – simply commented, “Knob”.

Disgruntled consumers added more comments like: “Talk about promoting poor morals and sportsmanship. Making one of their ships sink will not patch up your own,” “This is poor form. However you want to package this, it’s just poor form and not something to brag about,” “ This is the broken patriarchal model of crushing women and diversity. It’s a sad last gasp for air,” and “Well this explains a lot about how they treated their employees during lockdown. The fish rots from the head indeed.”

What with this drama shrouding their exciting return to the UK, it’s no wonder that Sylvie Moreau – President of Sephora Europe and Middle East – told Cosmetics Business that British retail is “not for the faint hearted”.