By  on February 22, 2002

NEW YORK -- Will things go better with Coke? A Coke executive, that is.

Earlier this week, Revlon named former Coca-Cola Co. president and chief operating officer Jack Stahl to the post of president and chief executive officer, replacing Jeffrey Nugent who resigned.

Many mass retailers wonder if the new face was merely to give a pop to Wall Street, rather than to assist Revlon in its revival.

The Street may have grown tired, but retailers said -- whether they thought Nugent was the right ceo or not -- that they crave more stability in Revlon's management.

Stahl is the fifth chief executive in the 16 years financier Ronald Perelman has owned the controlling stake in the beauty firm. Not only is Stahl the latest to walk through Revlon's revolving door, he also comes from outside the beauty business. That fact has raised some eyebrows.

What merchants said they need isn't necessarily a new face -- rather steadiness and innovation to return to Revlon. "Regardless of who is in there, the company needs some stability," said Mark Griffin, the current chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the president and ceo of Lewis Drugs. "We need to look forward at the long-term health of Revlon."

There was more fallout on Tuesday when Revlon ranks were further shaken with the resignation of Cheryl Vitali, executive vice president of Revlon Global. Several retailers wondered if more change would follow.

There's no denying Revlon has lost its image as the fashion authority in the mass cosmetics business. It has been forced to take third place behind L'Oreal's Maybelline division and Procter & Gamble's Cover Girl division. Worse yet, Revlon even stumbled in the lip category, a business it had dominated since the dawn of mass beauty. That wasn't helped by a less than fabulous launch by Revlon of a new lip product last year called Absolutely Fabulous.

However, in the last few months, retailers report a glimmer of life from Revlon brands. Although most said beauty is starting to pick up across the board, they singled out Revlon for its improvements versus last year. Sources at chains including Eckerd, Duane Reade and Rite Aid confirm that Revlon business is up over last year. Duane Reade is even adding back some footage that was removed from Revlon in past revisions of its peg walls. And, Revlon finally seemed to realize the specific needs of regional drug chains.

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