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Limited Brands Inc. has named Shashi Batra, president of N.V. Perricone M.D., as president of Victoria’s Secret Beauty, effective Jan. 22.
He will report to Sharen Jester Turney, president and chief executive officer of Victoria’s Secret. Batra replaces exiting Victoria’s Secret Beauty ceo Christine Beauchamp.
“The people who have come before me have been huge builders of that brand, and they have all contributed to VSB’s massive success,” said Batra in an exclusive phone interview. “Christine did a phenomenal job of taking Victoria’s Secret Beauty to the next level, and I plan to build on that success.
“We are competing against all of the freestanding brand stores, department stores and other channels,” continued Batra. “We have an opportunity to make [Victoria’s Secret’s beauty business] even more competitive, and we will do that by building on all of the beauty categories — skin care, fragrance and color. I’m looking forward to working with Les [Leslie H. Wexner, chairman of the board and ceo of Limited Brands] and Sharen to do that.”
Batra’s aim is to create a “best-of-category” assortment in the retailer’s stores. “What is the offer in the stores today, and how does that compare to the best offer in that category in the mall?” asked Batra, who helped establish Sephora in the U.S. and who also has held key positions at Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Estée Lauder and Christian Dior. “We want to make Victoria’s Secret a destination for beauty. The previous teams have done an incredible job, and I want to walk in there as a merchant and a brand-builder and maximize those strengths. This is one of the biggest beauty brands in the country, and look at how much opportunity we still have.”
Victoria’s Secret sells a plethora of its own beauty lines — including fragrances, color cosmetics, nail care, bath and body items and more — as well as a smattering of third-party brands, including Tarte, Too Faced and Joey New York.
Batra, currently based in San Francisco, will relocate to New York later this month.
“Victoria’s Secret Beauty has shown incredible promise, both domestically and abroad,” said Wexner in a statement released late Wednesday. “We are elated to have Shashi lead our team with his vast experience as a merchant in the beauty industry, which is complemented by his international business acumen.”
Added Turney in a statement: “We are happy to welcome Shashi to our team. His talent lies in his special combination of fundamental industry knowledge and international beauty experience. I am confident he will move Victoria’s Secret Beauty forward. I also want to thank Christine for all of her contributions that brought our beauty business to where we are today. We wish her well.”
Victoria’s Secret Beauty products are sold in more than 1,000 Victoria’s Secret stores in the U.S., in La Senza stores in Canada, online at victoriassecret.com and in seven other countries through duty free shops and other retail outlets.
When the private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners invested in N.V. Perricone M.D. about a year and a half ago, the firm recruited Batra as president from the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. Batra became acquainted with a managing director of TSG, Alexander Panos, about five years ago while at Sephora, which, like TSG, is headquartered in San Francisco.
Over the last year, TSG, with the help of Batra, has attempted to power Perricone’s growth by introducing new products and launching the brand’s first ad campaign.
“Shashi has had a lot of success at Perricone, and I can see why The Limited would be interested,” said Panos. He added that Batra’s old responsibilities will be shared by Lynda Berkowitz, Perricone’s senior vice president of sales, and Stephen Mirabella, the company’s chief administrative officer.
— Julie Naughton, with contributions from Molly Prior
Slatkin Exiting Wholesale Business
In an effort to concentrate on his burgeoning home fragrance business at Limited Brands, Harry Slatkin is pulling out of the wholesale business, where he got his start 15 years ago, and is withdrawing from some of the biggest names in specialty retailing — Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus.
“The business is growing so fast in the world of Limited Brands,” said Slatkin, adding that the profits generated from his wholesale accounts are much smaller in comparison with the overall business. “We’re rebuilding the Slatkin brand for the next chapter.”
Slatkin’s business in Limited’s Bath & Body Works chain of more than 1,600 stores nationwide has grown in less than three years from $300 million to about $500 million, according to estimates by industry sources. Meanwhile, the business that Slatkin plans to dismantle in the specialty stores amounts to $30 million at retail, sources estimate.
The initiative calls for Slatkin to create a home fragrance business for Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Pink, a younger subbrand under Victoria’s Secret. During an interview Wednesday at Limited’s BBW headquarters in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Slatkin said Victoria’s Secret has dabbled in various home fragrance collections in the past, but has found limited success. Slatkin plans to launch his first home fragrance collection for Pink, which he described as one of the fastest-growing brands inside Victoria’s Secret. The company is conducting focus groups to better understand Victoria’s Secret consumers and identify differences from BBW customers.
He also will continue to expand BBW home fragrance, the company’s leading performer, which has shown steady growth. Behind the brand’s success was the reformulation and rebranding of the entire White Barn Candle Co. line under the Slatkin & Co. brand. Although the 60 White Barn Candle Co. stores will retain the White Barn name for now, Slatkin indicated that Limited Brands is working on a project to reinvent the retail concept.
Despite having one of the best seasons among specialty channels, Slatkin said he still plans to shake up his distribution channels, pulling out of the stores that originally carried his products and successfully established his brand. As of Wednesday afternoon, he had informed a few retailers of his plan. When asked what will happen to employees working at his counters in the stores, Slatkin said he has been working to find other jobs for them, either in their present locations or in his stores.
In the last six months, Slatkin has reduced his company’s presence from a network of 300 individual stores to only the top 40 doors with plans to retreat from all wholesale retailers entirely. “In order to make it a big business, it will require an enormous amount of focus, and I don’t want to be doing something halfway,” said Slatkin. “These businesses are not as profitable, when compared to this brand. The reward is much bigger in the long run, and we can control everything we do.” He added, “I didn’t want to keep it alive just to have the prestige because I believe I have the prestige here.”
Slatkin also is edging away from one of his hallmarks — celebrity candles — brandishing names such as Elton John, Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. Slatkin noted that he began with Sir Elton a decade ago “before celebrity fragrances were around. Now every celebrity has something going on.” He admitted that the last project, the Sarah, Duchess of York Collection, didn’t reach sales expectations. “It got lost in the store because it didn’t have the focus it needed to build the brand,” he said. Slatkin added that he is occasionally tempted by endorsement deals, but has disciplined himself to say no, so he can focus on the Slatkin & Co. brand and building businesses at Limited.
The celebrity candles, which have been sold at Neiman Marcus and other high-end specialty retailers, are already crossing over to BBW doors. Slatkin previously pulled out of his distribution overseas, but he is now exploring the Canadian marketplace.
Launched more than 15 years ago in high-end specialty chains, Slatkin & Co. was acquired by Limited Brands in May 2005. According to Slatkin, with more than 250 stockkeeping units, the business has grown 30 percent in the past three years. Les Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer of Limited Brands Inc., originally planned for the home fragrance category to be a billion-dollar business over the next three to four years.
“When Limited Brands first acquired us, we didn’t know where we wanted to take the business and how to turn it around,” said Slatkin, referring to the resuscitation of White Barn. “After we figured out our business, it grew 18 percent the second year and 8 percent this year. I came into the masstige world, but I don’t treat it in that way — I treat my business as a prestige brand.”
Since the candle business only makes up 30 percent of the home fragrance business, he plans on expanding the category. Slatkin also plans to continue innovating the diffuser and plug-in category, which makes up 40 percent.
Slatkin & Co. also has started expanding its presence in alternative distribution channels such as home-shopping network QVC. The long-term target for QVC is for Slatkin & Co. to become a $100 million vendor as the number-one home fragrance brand, said Slatkin. This year there are plans for six one-hour shows, two of which will be part of “Today’s Special Value,” scheduled to air in August.
Slatkin also will continue appearing in the advertising campaign over the next year for his newly designed Zippo lighters, in addition to appearing in a separate ad campaign for BBW, which is scheduled to break in fall books.
— Michelle Edgar