Perhaps I'm a little behind the times and everyone already knows, but Ulta beauty is a god among men . . . in the way of cosmetic retailers, at least. (Pretend that metaphor worked.)
When I first went in to an Ulta, I didn't really see the point. The prices are higher for the drugstore-brand stuff I normally use, and I don't generally bother with the higher-end make-up.
Then, once I started getting into nailpolish to keep myself from gnawing my nails (a necessity when you have a document camera that projects your ragged nails 100x their normal size onto the wall behind your head on a daily basis), I often went in to get shades of nailpolish that were difficult to find other places--and ended up getting hooked.
They're successful, I think, because they bridge the gap between luxury and conventional. They carry all of the drugstore brands, and similar to Walgreen's (and unlike Walmart or Target), carry the entire line and keep it stocked. They have wider selections of facial, nail and hair products than anyone else I've found (they're the only ones I've seen who carry the Biore Skin Preservation line, for example). They also have the higher price point stuff, overlapping quite a bit with Sephora (smashbox, Urban Decay, dermalogica).
The slightly higher priced drugstore brands are made up for by the massive coupons they are always sending me--either $3.50 off a purchase of $10 or more, or 20% off a single item, which makes up the difference and then some. The club card means that I get a coupon for a free item every few months, and get double coupons via email. The staff is always friendly and not at all pretentious, going out of their way on a couple occasions to help me find something that was not out on the floor.
The reason I'm currently in love with them, however, is that they have ridiculous promotions, like the free blowout and style with Fekkai products that I have an appointment for this Wednesday.
If you want one, call your local store ASAP to reserve an appointment. The original times were Wednesday the 8th, 3-8pm, and Thursday the 9th, 1-4pm.
Good luck. =)