By  on February 18, 1994

KANSAS CITY -- As it has every year since 1983, the Jones Store Co. staged its Elegance Awards last week, conferring awards upon its best beauty advisers and top cosmetics vendors.

This, however, was the last year of the Jones Store's ownership of the event. Next year, the Elegance Awards will be moved to the Cincinnati headquarters of parent Mercantile Stores and greatly expanded to include employees and vendors in all six of the corporation's retail operating divisions.

The expansion of the awards format is Mercantile's latest step in its drive to fashion a more united front in its cosmetics buying approach. A year ago, Mercantile reduced the number of its cosmetics buying divisions from 13 to three, each headed by a regional area manager -- or "ram," as they are called by David Nichols, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

To further underscore the new sense of unity, Nichols hosted a cocktail party here Tuesday so his division presidents could socialize with some of Mercantile's top cosmetics vendors.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to send a message to the cosmetics industry that this is how we are running our business now," Nichols said.

Cosmetics has grown from 6.8 percent of Mercantile's total 1992 sales of $2.4 million to 8.8 percent of last year's $2.7 million, he added.

Last week's award ceremony drew more than 800 people, despite snowstorms that snarled travel plans and forced "mega-cancellations," according to Marty Richner, regional area manager for the Midwest.

Awards given to cosmetics manufacturers included one to Estee Lauder's Fruition, which won treatment launch of the year. In women's fragrance, Vivid by Liz Claiborne won for outstanding visual presentation and Tuscany Per Donna was named launch of the year.

Escape for Men by Calvin Klein was hailed as the men's fragrance launch of the year.

An afternoon with Elizabeth Taylor was named special event of the year and partnership awards were presented to Lancome and Parfums International.

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