NEW YORK -- Ultima II is back in the eye of controversy.
Earlier this week, May Department Stores Co. said it has decided to discontinue the business, confirming a report that appeared in WWD on Monday.
"The line no longer fits in our cosmetics department and its performance has been sluggish," the St. Louis-based retailer said in a statement. "In addition, Ultima's interest in broadening its channels of distribution beyond department stores has diluted its cachet."
Asked to elaborate, a May Co. spokesman said Ultima is "widely distributed in a variety of retail formats."
"The focus of our cosmetics business has always been with vendors dealing with department and better specialty stores," the spokesman said.
Ultima is sold in the majority of May Co. divisions, with 1993 retail sales estimated by industry sources at $15 million to $20 million.
The Revlon division found itself in the midst of a small furor when it entered J.C. Penney Co. in 1991. The New York-based R.H. Macy & Co. discontinued the business completely, although executives denied that Penney's was the reason. Other stores cut back the number of doors stocking Ultima II.
But since then, Ultima executives have insisted that their focus remains steadfastly and solely on department stores, with a national distribution of 2,000 doors.
This week, Revlon rebutted May Co.'s assessment with its own statement, maintaining that Ultima's business is anything but sluggish.
"We never comment on our business with a specific customer, but retail sales for Ultima II in 1993 were up 18 percent from 1992 in comparable prestige doors," said Jerry Levin, president and chief executive officer of Revlon Inc. "To our knowledge, May Co. participated in that growth.
"We are totally committed to growing our specialty and department store business," Levin continued. "Ultima's cachet is fabulous, as evidenced by our rapid growth in prestige doors."
May Co.'s explosive decision comes at a time when Ultima appears on the verge of generating some momentum. The division, which previously has relied on its color cosmetics business, is preparing to reenter the fragrance arena in September after a four-year absence According to industry sources, Ultima's wholesale volume climbed to $80 million last year.By pointing to Ultima's performance, May Co. dismissed cosmetics industry speculation that its action may have been in response to competitive pressure from Penney's. The surfacing of the report, however, points up the competitive sensitivity of retailing today. Wall Street and retail analysts say the Dallas retailer has become more of a force. "Penney's has done a very good job in the cosmetics arena, and the companies can make money with them," said Diana Temple, director in research at Salomon Bros.
She noted that expanding distribution to a national department store like Penney's makes sense. "Women are not shopping in department stores as much as they used to," she continued. "You have to reach out to the consumer or you're going to miss her."
Bill Flately, managing director of Levy & Kerson Associates, a retail and management consulting firm, said May Co. views Penney's "as head-to-head competition." But it is doubtful the St. Louis retailer would turn its back on opportunity out of spite, Flately said, noting, "May Co. wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot just to make a statement."
When Ultima went into Penney's, Dayton Hudson dropped the line from 33 doors, but the business remains in 24 of the corporation's 60 doors, according to Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager.
"We have had a difficult time maintaining the Ultima business," Burke said, acknowledging the ongoing competition from Penney's.
Penney's, of course, has a different view. "We are very pleased with the Ultima business," said Ann Gravseth, divisional merchandise manager at Penney's. "Sales have exceeded expectations," Gravseth continued. She added: "The American consumer wants the product, and we have it."
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)