By  on April 21, 1994

NEW YORK -- Determined to build its new cosmetics business, Sears, Roebuck & Co. isn't willing to wait for the prestige cosmetics houses to sign on.

Instead, the chain is entering into a joint venture with Pierre Rogers, president of the Lancome division of Cosmair Inc., to produce a full-scale private label cosmetics line. Rogers is resigning his post at Lancome.

Details of the development were outlined Wednesday by Arthur Martinez, chairman and chief executive officer of Sears Merchandising Group, and Robert L. Mettler, president of the Apparel/Home Fashions Group, during a presentation at the New York Palace Hotel here.

Martinez said the Sears cosmetics business as a whole should grow to $400 million to $500 million over a three-to-five-year period.

The private label program is expected to contribute less than half of overall cosmetics sales, but Martinez said after the presentation that home shopping and catalogs could be potential vehicles for the new line.

The line, which has not been named, initially will include makeup, treatment and fragrance. Eventually, Sears plans to add children's products.

The launch is set for October 1995 in more than 200 Sears doors.

Having exited the cosmetics business in the early Eighties, Sears opened 22 new cosmetics departments last November after nine months of planning. Twenty-six stores now have cosmetics departments, and an additional 99 are scheduled to open this year.

"This line will be expanded to most of our stores by 1998," Mettler said. Sears operates about 800 stores.

The departments, which average 3,000 to 3,500 square feet with 250 linear feet of counter space, mainly house mass cosmetics lines such as Revlon and L'Oreal. Sears' attempt to acquire prestige products has been limited to Flori Roberts, a department store brand for black women, and fragrances bought on the gray market.

Sears' push in cosmetics is part of a store-wide effort to become a national department store for Middle American women.

Annette Golden, a veteran of Estee Lauder and Revlon, will oversee product development for the joint venture. Charles Lalanne, formerly vice president of finance and chief financial officer at Yves Saint Laurent, will also be part of Rogers's team.

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