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Editor’s Letter: Many Happy Returns

August means the publication of the WWD Beauty Inc Top 100, our annual globing ranking of the world’s biggest beauty manufacturers.

Editor’s Letter
Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 08/12/2011

August means the publication of the WWD Beauty Inc Top 100, our annual globing ranking of the world’s biggest beauty manufacturers. This year’s list makes one thing clear, at least for the majority of firms who made the cut: Happy days are here again. After two years of being pummeled by the effects of the worldwide recession, sales of beauty products rebounded in 2010. Combined, the top 100 firms had sales of $176.18 billion for the calendar year, a 25.1 percent increase versus 2009. While the jump can in some ways be attributed to exchange rate fluctuations, beauty is without a doubt coming back. Last year for example, only one company in the top 10 (#3, Unilever) posted a sales increase; conversely, this year, only one posted a decline (#8, the Tokyo-based Kao Group.) Also notable in the top 10: Shiseido moved from sixth to fifth, bumping Avon down one spot to number six, and L’Oréal, Unilever, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and Chanel all posted double-digit increases for the year. Beauty’s Top 100 is a truly mammoth undertaking, overseen by our European beauty editor Jennifer Weil. As you’ll see, there are many fascinating facts to be gleaned from this year’s edition.

At the top of the list lies L’Oréal, the $25 billion beauty behemoth that has held the number-one spot for over 15 years. Lindsay Owen-Jones, who ran the company from 1984 to 2006, is the man largely credited for propelling L’Oréal to that position. Jean-Paul Agon, who took over as chief executive officer in 2006 and added the title of chairman in March, is the man charged with keeping it there. Owen-Jones is one of the chief architects of the globalization of the modern-day beauty industry. Today, Agon has expanded on that idea with his doctrine of universalization—beauty for all. “I want to express a new concept, which goes beyond globalization,” said Agon, during an in-depth interview with WWD’s executive editor of beauty, Pete Born. “In order to conquer and loyalize all these consumers around the world, the idea is to build from the [international] brands that we have….The second step is to make sure that these brands have products that are completely specifically designed, formulated and adapted to the needs and demands of the local consumers.” Discover the details of Agon’s vision in “Universal Designs.”

Alan Ennis, the president and chief executive officer of Revlon (#27, with sales of $1.32 billion, up 2 percent versus 2009) also has a very clear strategy for reestablishing the vibrancy of the storied American beauty brand that has been burdened with huge debts. “The objective is to drive profitable growth. That’s a change in direction from where we were five years ago,” he tells WWD’s beauty financial editor, Molly Prior, in “Master Class.” Ennis has implemented a slew of changes to achieve his goals, in product development, in marketing and communications, in global initiatives. But he also admits to a somewhat unorthodox approach. “My Irish heritage lends to a somewhat humorous style,” he says. “Regularly in meetings, I’ll crack a joke here and there to lighten the mood. If you’re not having fun, it’s a waste of time.” If Ennis can keep delivering the results that he’s achieved thus far, one can only assume that for Revlon, as for the industry itself, good times lie ahead.