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Rochelle Bloom is stepping down as president of The Fragrance Foundation after being at the helm of the industry organization for nine years.
This story first appeared in the November 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We all have to move on to the next chapter,” Bloom said Tuesday, adding that she had informed the foundation’s board that she plans to retire when her contract expires at the end of the year. The foundation said the choice of a successor has “not been finalized at this time.”
Bloom said she started discussing the possibility in the spring with chairman Jill Belasco. “It’s the right time for me,” said Bloom, noting that “my husband just celebrated a milestone birthday” and “I have worked long enough.”
However, Bloom stopped short of saying this move would be a complete retirement. She quoted Jeanette Wagner, former international chief of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., as saying she was rewiring, not retiring. “It’s time. I should do other things,” said Bloom, acknowledging only that she is “retirement age.” She seemed grateful for her time at the foundation and proud of her achievements. “I’ve done the best I could in my time; I tried hard to bring the organization into the 21st century.”
On Jan. 1, 2003, Bloom took the reins from Annette Green, the outgoing president emeritus, who had molded the organization over 41 years. Belasco, who could not be reached for comment, put out a statement thanking Bloom for her leadership. “Rochelle has extended the foundation’s global reach and awareness via expanded licensing, broadened consumer outreach via a revamped Web site, social media and events and strengthened its highly respected certification program significantly. The Fragrance Foundation is a more open and inclusive organization today because of Mrs. Bloom’s leadership and we thank her for all of her efforts on behalf of the industry.”
Bloom said she was proud of having expanded the base of the organization after opening its ranks to media and retail executives. She also worked to include middle management of the member companies by creating an associate board. The global reach that Belasco referred to was the signing of licensing agreements with organizations in Dubai and Russia, as well as now negotiating a similar deal in Brazil.
However, Bloom suggested that foundation presidents should serve only nine or 10 years to make way for a new leader with new vision and renewed energy. There have been rumblings in the industry of the need for the foundation to find a change of direction, considering that the U.S. prestige business has been strongly challenged in the last decade, although the sales trend has turned up sharply this year.
But the outgoing president maintains that she felt no pressure to step down and is leaving on good terms with the foundation. “I have always been fortunate to have a good board — very supportive and very enthusiastic.” Bloom also said she strongly believes in the fragrance category as “being here to stay.”
She added, “I’m going to rethink where I am, what I like to do, give back and travel more. I’m up for adventure.”
Bloom continued, “I’ve been predictable my whole life. I don’t want to do that anymore.”