On a recent, sweltering hot Wednesday morning, Alan Ennis leans over his computer to check how far the Dow Jones Industrial has dropped before plunking into his chair to speak about his efforts to return Revlon Inc. to its former glory. Sitting still does not suit Ennis—“I’m never truly at rest. I never stop moving even when I’m not in the office,” he admits—which may explain the success he’s had at Revlon’s helm. Following two years of sales declines, Revlon’s revenue grew more than 2 percent in 2010, and has rebounded further this year. Ennis may be a “finance guy” by training—he previously served as Revlon’s chief financial officer—but he’s bent on mastering the product side, too. During product review meetings, he eagerly tests out formulas, going so far as to apply a coat of quick-dry nail polish to prove it dries in 60 seconds. The president and chief executive officer oversees a $1.3 billion business with a global portfolio that includes Revlon, Almay, Mitchum, Gatineau and Ultima II. Net sales were up 9 percent in the first quarter. What do you attribute the increase to? Revlon has always been a powerhouse brand in the marketplace. It’s an iconic brand that stands for modern glamour. It’s always been a major player, not just in the U.S. but in many countries. I recognize a trend needs to be established over a period of time, so I don’t look at one quarter necessarily as being a turning point or defining a new direction. It comes down to three things: having the right product, communication and in-store execution. You’ve got to identify the consumer need and build a product portfolio that supports that. The product innovation piece is critical, and then you ask, how am I going to communicate so that it connects with [the consumer] . . . Julia Goldin, our chief marketing officer, talks about connection planning, and that’s a lot different than advertising. It means using the right ambassadors, photographers, copy and end-benefit communication. Then you test it extensively. The reason we’ve been successful over the last couple years, including the first quarter, is we have started to click on all of those cylinders. When you’ve got great brands and great people and a passion to win, it’s a killer combination.
What’s the growth plan for the year ahead and how are you going to achieve it? The objective is to drive profitable growth. That’s a change in direction from where we were five years ago, when the company was in a different financial situation. We’ve become a much more stable organization fi nancially and we’ve significantly improved our capital structure. We went from a place where five years ago we had negative cash flow of $162 million, to 2010 being our third consecutive year of positive cash flow. We have focused on putting resources behind what we believe the growth initiatives to be. It’s organic growth and growth potential through acquisition. My expectation is that we will continue to focus on driving growth while we maintain our margin structure, which is extremely competitive. How important is international in your strategy? What countries in particular are you focused on and why? I have a map of the world in my office. Being an Irish national, I recognize that Manhattan is not the center of the universe and the U.S. is not the center of the globe. Almost 50 percent of our revenues are generated outside the U.S. We have a formidable presence in a number of markets, including Canada, the U.K., South Africa, Australia and Mexico. We want to capitalize on our strengths in those markets, and find ways to exploit other markets where we are not in as strong a position. Revlon is sold in over 100 countries. We just launched the Revlon Colorsilk brand in Australia, where we’ve got a significant presence in the marketplace. It’s a tremendous success. We’re selling faster than we can get it in there. That’s an example of using our existing portfolio of brands and exploring new channels, new geographies and new segments.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"