By  on January 21, 2005

NEW YORK — A little more than a year ago, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executives drew up a new plan for the conglomerate’s U.S. beauty operations, with goals including a reining-in of Dior’s U.S. distribution and leveraging more strongly the connection between Dior’s beauty and fashion businesses.

The intent: to ratchet up the brand’s image in the eyes of U.S. consumers, and to excise lower-grossing doors from the mix.

A year later, the executives running Dior’s U.S. business, Pamela Baxter and Terry Darland, are reporting nearly 19 percent growth across the board for Dior’s beauty business — with some segments and retailers nearly doubling that figure.

Baxter, who is now president and chief executive officer of the Perfumes and Cosmetics Group, was hired away from the Estée Lauder Cos. in December 2003. She had been president of Lauder’s Specialty Brands Group. A few months later, Baxter tapped Darland, another longtime Lauder executive, as senior vice president of sales and marketing for Dior’s U.S. business.

Over the last year, the pair have slashed Dior’s door count in the U.S. from 800 beauty (skin care and color cosmetics) doors to 575, and its fragrance door count from 2,000 to 1,450.

Now, said Baxter, all of the pieces of the puzzle are in place. “Dior is strongly positioned for growth in 2005 with all of our retail partners,” she said.“In 2004, we spent much time focusing on brand positioning. Moving forward, a strong link to fashion will help to achieve our high expectations for Dior Beauty.”

Added Darland: “We’re building the business on three prongs. There’s a specialty store prong, a department store prong and a Sephora prong. While some initiatives reach across all of these channels, we also want to match the Dior brand with the locales where the customer is looking for it. Skin care drives many trends in specialty store doors — that consumer tends to be more educated [about skin care needs] and she has more money to spend.”

In fact, a chief goal is to rebuild the brand’s stronghold in upscale specialty store doors, particularly in Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, said Darland.

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