By  on July 24, 2008

L’Oréal USA named Carol Hamilton president of the beauty giant’s Luxury Products Division on Thursday, seeking to boost marketing and merchandising as department store beauty sales struggle.

Hamilton, president of L’Oréal Paris, will oversee brands such as Lancôme, Kiehl’s Since 1851, Ralph Lauren Fragrances and Parfums Giorgio Armani in department stores and prestige outlets. She will be the third executive to hold the post in five years.

Hamilton is largely credited with building L’Oréal Paris into beauty’s largest brand. Its reach extends to hair color, where it is the category leader with products such as Preference, Excellence, Feria and Natural Match; skin care, with Advanced Revitalift, Age Perfect and Skin Genesis, and cosmetics, where it ranks as a top-three brand in lipstick, eye shadow, blush, foundation and powder, according to Information Resources Inc.

She replaces Valerie Chapoulaud, who resigned from L’Oréal USA last week to become chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton Taiwan. Chapoulaud had been at L’Oréal 24 years and was luxury products chief less than a year. Her predecessor, Edgar Huber, was appointed in 2003. He took a new L’Oréal position, based in Paris, in 2007, which he left in June to head Juicy Couture.

Hamilton steps into a prestige business that sources most of its product development from Paris, unlike her current division, where she has been directly involved in product development.

Her strength “is product development and advertising,” said industry consultant Allan Mottus. “She had a lot of control of that at L’Oréal Paris. On the other hand, Lancôme was developed there and then distributed internationally, so you really don’t get involved as early in that [product development] cycle. You are more or less reacting to how you want to merchandise it in the U.S.”

Mottus said Hamilton is well suited for the glamorous world of prestige beauty. “Carol really knows the beauty biz,” he said. “She’s going from drugstores and mass stores to department stores. The chemistry is different, but I’m sure she can do both easily well.”

Sherry Saffert, divisional merchandise manager for beauty at CVS Corp., said, “Her vision and strategic partnership has allowed us to grow the L’Oréal business.”

In the first half of this year, prestige beauty sales were down 1 percent, said Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst at The NPD Group. They rebounded from first-quarter results that were the worst in a decade.

But L’Oréal’s luxury portfolio may be stuffed with growth opportunity. In January, L’Oréal made a successful bid for YSL Beauté, giving the company an exclusive and long-term worldwide license for the use of the YSL, Stella McCartney and Boucheron brands (which PPR continues to own) in fragrance and cosmetics. The 1.15 billion euro, or $1.74 billion at current exchange, deal completed in May, also gave L’Oréal the licenses for the Oscar de la Renta and Ermenegildo Zegna brands in the fragrance and cosmetics categories. These joined Lancôme, Ralph Lauren Fragrances and Shu Uemura, among others.

Hamilton joined L’Oréal USA in 1984 as director of marketing for the former L’Oréal Cosmetics Division. She was appointed vice president, and then senior vice president of marketing for the L’Oréal Hair Care Division. In 1996, she became senior vice president, marketing, for L’Oréal Paris, which merged the former cosmetics and hair care divisions, and became general manager in 2000 where she oversaw all functions of the L’Oréal Paris brand including marketing, manufacturing, sales, finance and administration. She was appointed president, L’Oréal Paris, in 2002.

Hamilton will be succeeded by Karen T. Fondu, president of Maybelline New York/Garnier. Fondu joined L’Oréal USA in 1979 and has held sales management positions within the L’Oréal Consumer Products Division. In 1996, she was appointed senior vice president, sales, Maybelline, after its acquisition by L’Oréal. In 2001, Fondu was named general manager of Maybelline New York/Garnier, and in 2004, was named president, Maybelline New York/Garnier.

Under her leadership, Maybelline New York has become the leading cosmetics brand in the U.S. with 2007 sales close to $760 million, according to data firm Euromonitor. IRI tracks Maybelline New York as the leading brand in eye shadow, mascara and eyebrow pencil in food, mass and drugstores, excluding Wal-Mart. In addition to growing cosmetics, Fondu oversaw the rollout of the Garnier hair and skin care businesses to the U.S. IRI ranks Garnier third in the shampoo category.

Mottus sees Fondu’s new role at L’Oréal Paris as a return to a “button-down sales and distribution” management style. “It’s their flagship brand and if it is declining, and it seems it might be [in antiaging skin care], the French ego will not tolerate it,” he said.

David H. Greenberg, senior vice president, Human Resources, L’Oréal USA, will take over Maybelline New York/Garnier. Greenberg has held various positions in the L’Oréal Paris Division, including vice president of marketing for the L’Oréal Paris hair color portfolio and vice president of marketing for all L’Oréal Paris hair care and colorants. He has also led L’Oréal’s consumer division in Mexico, and oversaw Matrix’s rollout to China, Russian and India.

All three appointments will take effect in September.

— With contributions from Julie Naughton

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