NEW YORK — Leonard Lauder, chairman of The Estée Lauder Cos., talks in terms of turning around a battleship. Group president Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne has a sign in his office that proclaims, "It can be done."

The Herculean task in question is the 18-month battle to restore the luster and reverse the declining fortunes of the Estée Lauder brand, the Lauder corporation’s traditional flagship, and get the previously number-one prestige leader back on top. And many influential retailers see signs of improvement as well as a renewed vigor in the more-than 50-year-old brand.

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