NEW YORK -- For Sherry Baker, success depends on doing a few vital things very well.
After a month on the job as the new North American president of Halston Borghese Inc., Baker says, "The challenge is to be focused, to pick your shots and do things right."
In the past, the fledgling company "tried to do too many things," she emphasized.
"When you are not the biggest company," Baker continued, "you have to be sensitive to picking and choosing what you do and do it better than anyone else."
Although the company was formed only in January 1992, when a group of Saudi Arabians bought the Halston and Princess Marcella Borghese brands from Revlon, it has been intensely busy.
In addition to the acquisition of the Nautica fragrance license, the company established a new manufacturing base, installed a computer system that was balky in the early going, fine-tuned the packaging on Borghese and Halston and launched two major fragrances -- Halston's Catalyst for women in May 1993 and Borghese's Il Bacio the following September.
A third fragrance -- Catalyst for Men -- was launched Sunday, exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Michael Marten, the company's founding president and chief executive officer, retired and was succeeded by Raymond Baliatico in February. Baker, whose cosmetics background includes Revlon, Charles of the Ritz and Unilever's Erno Laszlo and Parfums International divisions, succeeded David Horner, who is continuing with the company as a consultant.
Now Baker's first priority is training, following a four-week tour of department stores during which she heard beauty advisers complain about out-of-stock problems, late merchandise shipments and sometimes poor communications with New York headquarters.
"Shipping is much better now on regular business," Baker said. "In terms of promotional merchandise, I think there is still slippage."
In addition to sharpening communications with the beauty advisers, Baker intends to hire a new vice president of training, "hopefully next month." The company's previous training head, Mary Tumolo, vice president of business development, recently resigned to join LancÖme.
Baker also would like to expand the training staff to 10 and upgrade the beauty schools conducted for store personnel. She plans to give Borghese's counter presentation a more consistent, unified look.
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