By  on August 14, 2009

Every year, WWD Beauty Biz publishes “Beauty’s Top 100.” Overseen by European editor Jennifer Weil, the list ranks the 100 biggest global companies based on their 2008 sales. The timing this year seems particularly apropos. After all, now that the dust from the economic upheaval has settled, what better time to assess the damage done?

Perusing the Top 100, a few points become immediately clear: Most of the industry’s major players managed to eke out growth despite the tremendous turmoil. Number–one ranked L’Oréal reached sales of $25.81 billion, an increase of 2.8 percent, while Procter & Gamble came in a strong second at $19.8 billion, a 6.5 percent rise over 2007. Rounding out the top five, in order, are Unilever, the Estée Lauder Cos. and Avon Products, whose sales rose 9.7 percent versus 2007, thanks in large part to a restructuring plan started three years ago and a 7 percent increase in the number of associates worldwide selling the brand. (For a full report, turn to “Beauty’s Top 100,” starting on page 19.)

Also of note is the tremendous management changes that have taken place over the last 12 months. Three of the top five companies, P&G, Unilever and Estée Lauder, feature new senior management, all of whom bring fresh visions and concise strategies for powering their firms—and the industry as a whole—forward. It’s a story we’ve covered extensively and will continue to do so as the year progresses.

The Japanese companies Shiseido and Kao, ranking number seven and nine, respectively, were the only companies in the top 10 to post decreases for the year. Our special report, “World Wide Watch: Japan” explains why. Though it has the highest per-capita spend on beauty products in the world, Japan is also a mature market—literally—with more than 22 percent of the population over the age of 65. That dynamic, combined with the country’s economic woes, has produced a fundamantal shift in the beauty industry, as you’ll read on page 16.

Despite the country’s challenges, luxury labels are still all the rage in Japan. Particularly popular there—and most everywhere else in the world—is Chanel, whose products have come to symbolize the ultimate in French chic. Last year, the company named makeup artist Peter Philips its new creative director of color cosmetics, succeeding 30-year veterans Heidi Morawetz and Dominique Moncourtois. It’s a big job and Philips has proven himself up to the task, as you’ll discover in “Artist at Large,” on page 44. As he tells our London-based beauty editor Brid Costello, “Beauty can be in the surprise or if it’s unintended…Sometimes, if someone is too perfect, it can be boring. I like when something is crooked—it can make you stand out and be an individual.” In an age when everyone is searching for new ways to express themselves, that sounds like a winning strategy, indeed.

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