MILAN — Just three months after taking over the reins of the Valentino beauty brand from Unilever, Procter & Gamble has announced plans to develop and expand the brand to increase sales.

In an announcement made in conjunction with Valentino, owned by Italian fashion and textile company Marzotto, a five-year turnaround plan has been developed to raise the sales of the beauty arm from 10 to 15 percent of the house’s total volume to 30 to 40 percent.

“It’s much smaller than it should be,” said Michele Norsa, chief executive officer of Valentino and general manager of Marzotto Apparel, of the beauty business.

Driving the turnaround plan will be a new fragrance, set to be launched at the beginning of 2005.

Paolo De Cesare, president of P&G’s global prestige beauty and skin care, confirmed the prospective women’s scent would be an important part of the new strategy for the brand. “We will develop the brand to be a force in beauty care,” he said. “Look at the work we have done with Hugo Boss — we want to apply the same system and strategy for Valentino.”

P&G believes another key to unlocking the Valentino’s beauty brand’s potential is to improve its position in store and on shelf —?and to ensure this, it plans to review every door Valentino’s beauty is in.

“We are currently reviewing all 10,000 doors we have in Europe and examining what to do with them,” said De Cesare. “We want to be in all the top doors for prestige fragrances. We aim to open some 10 to 20 percent more doors worldwide.”

However, that will be counterbalanced with a pruning of underperforming doors — estimated to be about 15 to 20 percent of total doors. After the review process, those doors are slated to be closed down. The brand has no specific plans for singling out any country for improvement, said De Cesare. Rather, it plans to focus on the bigger picture.

“Now we have to be competitive in all major markets,” said Norsa, adding, “we have put a lot of hope in Procter & Gamble to be everywhere, to distribute in those markets in the best way possible. I strongly believe in the U.S. I think it is the fastest-growing market, and Valentino is visibly strong and people are aware of the brand there.”Valentino ended its contract with Unilever — begun in the Eighties — because of differing objectives, said Norsa. “Unilever was starting a process of divesting top luxury brands, which was not in line with our need,” he said. “We wanted to start a new story of success. We are much closer to Procter & Gamble, which has a strong Italian management. This license is more a partnership than a business.”

That partnership is already generating work on a new fragrance.

“We get together every week, Valentino himself included, to develop the bottle and packaging and juice,” said Norsa. “We are taking the time with this fragrance, to develop it properly and to guarantee the quality.”

Though P&G or Valentino wouldn’t confirm the fragrance’s target audience, both said they wouldn’t rule out a beauty strategy for the new, younger, directional Valentino Red clothing line.

“To grow the business in the younger market, we developed the Red line in order to increase the accessibility — and the fragrance arm also helps to increase that accessibility,” said Norsa.

Added De Cesare: “We are sensitive to the positioning and magic of the brand. We feel it has a large untapped potential — if it travels on fashion it can travel on beauty.”

No specific plans have yet been made for a cosmetics line, but that doesn’t mean one wouldn’t be considered in the future, said De Cesare. “The brand has significant potential — everywhere I turn I see opportunities,” he said.

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