Armed with solid retail experience, a strong vision for their brands and enough enthusiasm to change the world, these top executives are shaping the future of the beauty industry.
This story first appeared in the May 18, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Company: Victoria’s Secret Beauty
HQ: New York
2006 Sales: $1 billion
Previously: Consultant, Boston Consulting Group
Going from banking to beauty isn’t exactly the usual route for an executive in this industry, but little about Christine Beauchamp, president and chief executive officer at Victoria’s Secret Beauty, is typical.
The 37-year-old Washington, D.C.-born executive who graduated with honors from Princeton University with a B.A. in politics began her career as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. Looking back on her meteoric rise now, she jokes that she has “always been somehow engaged in activities involving shopping.” Indeed. After receiving an M.B.A. from Harvard University, Beauchamp moved into management consulting at the Boston Consulting Group, working primarily with the soft-goods sector. This included extensive work in personal care, accessories and apparel for brands from mass to couture.
It was that job that led Beauchamp to her current role: One of her clients at BCG was Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret Beauty, Bath & Body Works and Express.
In February 2003, she joined the Columbus, Ohio-based company to develop growth strategies for all these businesses. “My work evolved into a full-time position working with Les Wexner, the company founder and chairman, on new product commercialization capability in the beauty and lingerie sectors.”
Wexner was obviously impressed with her skills, naming Beauchamp president and general merchandise manager of Victoria’s Secret Beauty in April 2005. She added the chief executive title last May. “It is a pleasure to work with Christine,” says Wexner. “Her knowledge of the industry, along with her creativity and business experience, has contributed substantially to the growth of Victoria’s Secret Beauty.”
Today, Beauchamp oversees a business that generates sales of nearly $1 billion annually. In addition to managing production of a host of Victoria’s Secret beauty products, she retails them through 1,000 U.S. Victoria’s Secret stores, the brand’s catalogues and Web site and select international markets. The ceo also has her hands full in a completely new context: She delivered her first child, George Robert Beauchamp 2nd, in mid-March.
And where some executives might see only challenges in the current business climate, Beauchamp sees only opportunities.
“Beauty is behaving more like fashion, and that makes it an exciting time to be a beauty merchant,” said Beauchamp. “It’s certainly a dynamic time in the beauty industry. Over the last decade, the growth of the specialty retail channel has been incredible. And the amount of newness, innovation and fashion that has entered the beauty industry is quite exciting.”
Robin Coe-Hutshing, who collaborated with Beauchamp on the development of Victoria’s Secret’s Exotic Nectars body care line, says, “Christine combines an interesting paradox of out-of-the-box creative thinking with steel-clad business acumen and she’s not afraid to rock the boat.”
Like Wexner, Beauchamp approaches her responsibilities with what both executives call “the shopkeeper mentality.”
“We make significant efforts to know our customers intimately and take a merchant’s eye to every product we develop,” said Beauchamp. Delivering the unexpected is key to her strategy. “Beauty is a highly emotional category for [consumers],” she says. “She loves to experiment, play, to be delighted and surprised.” Sounds like someone we know. —Julie Naughton
Company: N.V. Perricone
HQ: Meridian, Conn.
2005 Sales: $73 million
Previously: General Manager, Rodan + Fields
Despite a lofty list of titles, N.V. Perricone M.D. Cosmeceuticals’ president Shashi Batra, 41, credits behind-the-counter experience with teaching him the most about the beauty business.
A native of Switzerland, the San Francisco resident served an internship at Parfums Christian Dior, scored a spot in Macy’s Executive Training Program as a result, and has never looked back. “There’s nothing like being on the selling floor. [The Macy’s program] really taught people to be merchants. And once you have those basic skills—merchandising, selling, etc.—you can apply them to any area of the business,” says Batra.
After a stint as department manager of cosmetics for Macy’s East, he went on to become a cosmetics buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue. It was at Saks where Batra first worked with Steve Bock, who later helped bring French beauty chain Sephora to the U.S. In 1998, at Bock’s urging, Batra joined Sephora USA as vice president of merchandising and was later promoted to senior vice president of merchandising.
Though it may seem like a natural choice now, leaving a stable job at Saks for Sephora, a shoestring operation at the time, was a risky move. Then again, the soft-spoken and bespectacled Batra is neither shy nor conservative where his career is concerned.
In December 2003, he made another bold move, to become general manager of the Rodan + Fields beauty brand at the Estée Lauder Cos. There, he says, he learned all about innovation. Leonard Lauder, the chairman of the board, and Dan Brestle, the chief operating officer, “taught me what levers a brand must have,” Batra remembers. Lauder imparted another valuable lesson: “[He] taught me that who you sell your product through helps build your credibility,” says Batra. “For instance, Nordstrom has the ultimate reputation for customer service. If you align your [brand] with that [positioning], you are the brand [people will buy] at Nordstrom.”
That said, he adds, the onus is on marketers to communicate a strong message to consumers. “In an assisted self-serve atmosphere, consumers have the choice not to interact with salespeople, no matter how well they’re trained. The communication is happening between the product and its prospective buyer. That means that communication at point-of-sale has to be better than ever.”
“Today, some of the most successful brands focus on shopping channels, the Internet, editorial, all sorts of consumer-relations management,” Batra points out. “[Nicholas] Perricone is the king of alternative media communication. He built this business by getting the message out in an alternative way. He drove curiosity and product sales.” N.V. Perricone products are sold on sephora.com and neimanmarcus.com, as well as nvperriconemd.com. They are also available through QVC.
“The problem with department stores is that they have tried to be everything to everyone,” Batra says. Success, in his eyes, requires an unwavering point of view. “People won’t want to hear from you unless you have a message. Once you have a philosophical base, [your company] can have ebbs and flows, but it
maintains a consumer who has a profound buy-in to your brand.”
For Perricone, the challenge is “scaling up,” Batra says. “We have been increasing our presence in international markets, and we’re concentrating on product innovation and new mediums. It’s exciting to see the statistical data you can get from selling on the Internet. If I sell a product to a retailer, I have to guess who the consumer is and why she bought it. On the Net, I can track every bit.” —J.N.
2006 Sales: $100 million
Previously: General Manager, Bumble and bumble
Twenty-two years ago, Jurlique was founded on the premise of providing an alternative, natural choice to those who cared about what they put in and on their body. This mission, says Jurlique president and chief executive officer Eli Halliwell, is set to expand as the current sea change toward natural beauty products catches on.
An avid rock climber and yoga practitioner, 36-year-old Halliwell has a “relationship” with nature and wants to see the environment protected. Living in Australia for the past year since becoming ceo, he is thankful that the consumer is finally interested in these issues, ones that have mattered to Jurlique since Day One.
Previously, Halliwell was general manager of Bumble and bumble, the professional hair care company owned by The Estée Lauder Cos. There, he became known for his strategic thinking and passionate leadership style as he helped build Bumble’s brand and distribution.
“Enchanted” with the eco-friendly evolution taking place among consumers, Halliwell notes, “Wal-Mart is already the number-one retailer of organic milk. That is a leading indicator that is shocking everyone, from politicians to businessmen. People are much more focused on what they put in, on and around their bodies. They have a conscience,” says Halliwell.
Jurlique, he says, is about to pop in a big way, thanks to an overhaul of the brand’s packaging and store design. Already he is seeing a response in Australia where the brand has become number one in skin care for the first time, overtaking Clarins.
Simultaneously, he has recommitted the privately owned company to the principles of biodynamics, a form of agriculture that is considered “beyond organic” because of its closed system of sustainable farming practices. He is also determined to keep Jurlique a vertically-integrated company, handling all modes of operation from seed to sale.
The skin care company generates about $100 million in sales and last year partnered with San Francisco-based private equity firm JH Partners to fund its growth. Plans involve building more stores internationally. But the core of Jurlique’s positioning—incorporating ingredients from its certified organic and biodynamic farms—isn’t budging. It is what differentiates Jurlique from competitors such as Dr. Hauschka, Primavera and Weleda. The company’s most popular products include Herbal Recovery Gel ($124), Eye Gel ($121), Neck Serum ($75) and Pure Rosewater Freshener ($31).
Although the organic skin care category is still small, totaling an estimated $200 million in U.S. sales in natural supermarkets and in conventional food, drug and mass stores, excluding Wal-Mart, according to SPINS data, Halliwell expects that to change. In the next three to five years, natural and organic beauty brands will eat significantly into traditional brands’ market share, he predicts.
The products Jurlique creates have a natural source: their own farms. A couple of weeks ago, Halliwell visited one, where he picked calendula. “It is our first harvest. I looked across the 150 acres, squinted my eyes and imagined what business will be like with all these amazing plants,” he says.
A typical week for Halliwell has him traveling to Japan, where Jurlique has 15 freestanding stores and a presence in niche department stores such as Takishimaya. In the U.S., Jurlique is sold in 12 of its concept stores and at 300 destination, resort and day spa partners. Jurlique now has 60 stores in 22 countries. The American market should benefit from the Halliwell effect in the fourth quarter, when a larger distribution, more Jurlique stores and new product packaging are slated.
Halliwell himself is scheduled to return to New York, likely to a suburb in Westchester County, by the end of the year, 12 months sooner than expected. “I feel a strong urgency to return to the U.S. It represents a massive opportunity for us,” he says. “And when opportunity knocks, you have to listen. —Andrea Nagel
Company: Frédéric Fekkai LLC
HQ: Greenwich, Conn.
2006 Sales: Approx. $100 million
Previously: General Manager, The Body Shop (U.S.)
While luxury hair care can be considered an oxymoron, the success of the largest luxury hair care company, Frédéric Fekkai LLC, has given Melisse Shaban little time to contemplate the matter. Instead, she is deliberating on ways to grow the estimated $100 million beauty empire she oversees, making sure she doesn’t get in the way of her star artist, hair guru Fekkai. “There are some similarities that run through all entrepreneurs and once you understand how to get the most out of a certain one, it’s time to leave them to do what they are best at—developing the vision for the brand,” says Shaban. Creating an infrastructure for the company, on the other hand, is her job, she says, adding, “They typically hate that stuff.”
Shaban, 45, grew up with a father who served the beauty industry for 30 years: Gregory Shaban was executive vice president of Revlon overseeing hair care and cosmetics. Throughout her childhood and into her adult years, Shaban heard about “the business,” one she eventually migrated to after graduating from Rosemont College in Pennsylvania. She cut her teeth at Revlon, then joined a pre-Estée Lauder-owned Aveda, where she rose to the position of general manager. Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, Shaban says, is still a mentor. Next, she ran North American operations for The Body Shop.
Shaban joined Fekkai in January 2005, when Chrysallis, a portfolio company of Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm Catterton Partners, purchased a major stake in the beauty company. Shaban is the chief executive officer of Chrysallis, whose investments include Fekkai, Pout, NIA 24 and Canyon Ranch skin care. Its attraction to Fekkai was multipronged. “Frédéric started something unique in the luxury world by offering a prestige item in a distribution that didn’t previously exist. We also saw that Fekkai had terrific brand equity. His brand appealed to a top-tier demographic, which we liked because you can never go up but you can always come down,” Shaban says.
In just two years, Fekkai has gone from 340 doors to 2,000 doors and is sold in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Greece, Austria and the Netherlands. Part of Fekkai’s success has been its shift from selling
in department stores to specialty stores with a global reach, such as Sephora and Victoria’s Secret.
Shaban insists the business can grow into twice that number of doors without cannibalization.
On the product side, Fekkai will continue to expand in three core hair care categories: care, style and color. While most items sell between $20 and $35, Fekkai broke the price barrier with Hair Repair, a $195 overnight treatment. “People are getting advanced technology. [Fekkai] stands for celebrity status, beauty, service, sexiness and style. It is an aspirational brand,” Shaban says.
There are plans to expand salons—there are currently five—globally, too. “We have a lease on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, we have executed a lease in Greenwich, Conn., and we are working on four to six leases in the next six months. We need to be in London and Paris and [other] trendsetting capitals of the world.” Shaban believes she can grow to as many as 25 salons worldwide and still keep the service high-end.
The ceo admits it is always a challenge not to dilute a premium brand. Fekkai’s friends in high places may help. Recently, a partnership with jewelry house H. Stern had Fekkai lending his design savvy to diamond-encrusted hair accessories that were ultimately worn by celebrities at The Academy Awards. —A.N.