Help yourself ... is online easier than store-bought?.

Help yourself ... is online easier than store-bought?. Photo: Natalie Boog

If you've ever searched in vain for someone to take your money or known more about the products being sold than the beauty expert sales assistant, then you've been shopping at one of the big two department stores. Both of them are the same, with David Jones ahead with indoctrinated politeness once someone does get behind the till - it's the only place I'm ever called ''Mrs Hughes'' - and Myer ahead for super-reductions that make the wait sometimes worthwhile.

Many a time I go to DJs or Myer and see a frustrated shopper. One who has flung her goods on the unmanned counter or challenged the sales assistant - especially the ones who say ''Sorry, I can't help you, I don't work here''. Why are you working there then? Actually, we don't care. We just want to hand over money for this thing which we had to find ourselves without assistance or advice or attention. I've been reduced to opening a counter cupboard to hunt for a specific product. That's one way to get attention.

Many a time I go to DJs or Myer and a frustrated shopper has flung her goods at the unmanned counter, or challenged the sales assistant - especially the ones who say ''sorry, I can't help you, I don't work here''. 

It's little wonder we love shopping online for makeup.

David Jones and Myer have been battling overseas websites for years and it's in the beauty category that the battle is being fought most fiercely. We love our OS beauty websites far more the super-shiny, ear-banging beauty halls.

Cosmetics entrepreneur Napoleon Perdis has urged the department stores to put some money into hiring more sales assistants and training them properly. Perdis, on a visit from LA last week, said Australian staff were in desperate need of an education program that extended beyond how to use a cash register.

''Department stores are going to have to bite the bullet further with increasing staffing levels so that customers have reason to go into them,'' Perdis told Fairfax's Business Day this week. He knows what he's talking about. His cosmetics and makeup lines have penetrated middle America and last month he signed a deal with the luxury department stores Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman - the first such deal for an Australian brand.

Said Perdis: ''At the end of the day there has to be a major incentive for a woman to go to a department store and feel beautiful.''

We're very happy to buy our favourite moisturiser and lipstick online, thank you very much. Recent figures from the Commonwealth Bank show cosmetics and beauty have the second-highest penetration by overseas websites compared with other retail segments in Australia. Foreign sites take 88 per cent of market share.

What would it take for you to buy your beauty products at the bricks-and-mortar cosmetics counters? Despite the staffing problems, I love them. I like being able to see and feel the products and chat about their merits. I like the transformative makeup makeover that sends me on my merry shopping way.

How do you find the department store service and advice? When was the last time you shopped for makeup at Myer or DJs? What keeps you shopping online? What would make you change?