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After a four-year search, Juicy Couture has finally found a president to lead its global growth.
This story first appeared in the June 9, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Edgar Huber, L’Oréal SA managing director of major markets, will lead the business side of the contemporary brand as it continues its expansion abroad. Huber takes over the role of president from co-founders Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, who will continue as creative directors.
“Edgar is the opposite of us — he’s a businessman, not a creative, emotional, entrepreneurial type,” Nash-Taylor told WWD. “It was very hard to find someone with a pedigree like Edgar. A lot of people want to be merchants involved with design. That’s what we loved about him. He’s not creative. We didn’t want that input. He’s a brand guy.”
Since joining L’Oréal in 1992, Huber has made a name for himself as a brand builder with international reach, overseeing a portfolio that included Ralph Lauren fragrances, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Diesel fragrances, Lancôme, Shu Uemura and Kiehl’s Since 1851. At Kiehl’s, he became president of the brand in 2002 when it had only two freestanding stores and it now has more than 60 around the world. Beginning in 2003, as president of the luxury group, he expanded that business with annual mid-single-digit increases to an estimated $1.68 billion in retail sales.
Although Huber has spent his career in beauty, he brings general brand building, wholesale and retail experience and international acumen, according to his new partners and colleagues.
“He was one of the very few beauty executives who walked through the whole store with me and understood what we were trying to do to play in the upscale arena,” said Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould.
Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer of Saks Inc., agreed. “Juicy is one of our largest brands, and having someone like Edgar to provide leadership is a real sign of confidence for us,” said Frasch.
Juicy’s co-founders and William L. McComb, ceo of Juicy parent company Liz Claiborne Inc., pointed to the Kiehl’s brand building in particular as evidence of how Huber can manage the contemporary firm as the company doubles from its current $500 million wholesale volume to the $1 billion brand Claiborne projects it will be. McComb says half of that can now be international, which would make Juicy the $4.58 billion company’s most global brand. Currently, 13 percent of Juicy’s sales are international.
“Edgar is all about brands and he believes you never ever sacrifice the brand for sales,” Skaist-Levy said. “I love the brands he’s overseeing right now. They are luxury and pure. He also is an international guy and that has always been something LCI doesn’t understand that well.”
By the end of this year, Juicy will have 60 stores in the U.S. and almost 50 in Southeast Asia with its partner, Lane Crawford. The company plans to expand into Europe on its own.
Juicy has been the growth leader for its struggling parent company, which bought the Los Angeles-based brand in 2003 when it did $50 million in volume. Last year, Juicy exceeded growth projections, with revenues rising 49 percent and comp-store sales up 23 percent as the company doubled its door count. Even in the tough first quarter of this year, Juicy produced 58 percent sales growth and is seeing success in its store openings and category openings, including an intimates line that could potentially spin off into its own stores soon.
“This brand has so many trap doors of growth opportunities that we can continue to pursue,” McComb said. “This is the key ingredient to accelerate.”
Juicy has been successful with its fragrance, which launched in 2006, and Huber’s hire begs the question of whether the company will dive further into the beauty world.
“Yes, but we can do that ourselves,” said Nash-Taylor, adding she would like a cosmetics launch to happen “now.”
More directly, Huber will be the corporate liaison between the brand’s creative team in Los Angeles, Liz Claiborne’s corporate team in New York and the international expansion team in London. Beginning in mid-August, Huber will be based in New York, but travel between all three cities and report to McComb.
“It’s all about respecting a brand,” Huber said. “It’s such a beautiful and exciting brand with long-term sustainable growth that can be expanded throughout the world.”