Alexandra Trower, executive vice president of global communications at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., has revealed plans to retire.
Trower assumed her role in 2008, and serves as an executive officer of the company. Her retirement is effective July 1, and a successor has yet to be named.
Trower started her career with The Estée Lauder Cos. shortly after the appointment of chief executive officer Fabrizio Freda. She has also seen the industry adapt to a rapid cycle of digital communications and the price of the company’s shares explode.
“When I joined the company, the stock price was almost at $23 per share. Now, we’re at almost $300, which is a growth similar to Tesla, or a tech company,” she said.
William P. Lauder, the company’s executive chairman, also effectively brought the company online in 1996, which only became more important throughout Trower’s tenure.
“[Lauder] had this incredible vision of what online could be. There were questions about whether you could try on foundation online, and who would ever really do that,” Trower said. “Online has just given our consumers more and more opportunity to experience their favorite brands, and connect in a different way.”
Lauder’s vision came to fruition. As previously reported by WWD, Tracey Travis, the company’s EVP and chief financial officer, said digital sales grew double digits in 2020’s fourth quarter.
Brands can also expect to hear more from their consumers via digital platforms, Trower said, adding she only foresees that behavior accelerating. “We have no excuse to say we don’t really know what’s on the mind of our consumers,” she said. “Having that immediate access to what’s on our consumers’ mind, knowing what she cares about and what’s important, helps us do our jobs better.”
Among the job’s high points, aside from communicating Freda’s and Lauder’s goals for the company, include launching “The Company I Keep: My Life in Beauty,” the first book from chairman emeritus Leonard A. Lauder, Trower said. “Helping him to bring his message to so many people has been just an extraordinary pleasure and a privilege.”
Trower added that between reporting to William P. Lauder and working alongside Freda “has been like going to business school every day with your favorite professor.”
Lauder’s global communications team, which Trower has built throughout her tenure, remains one of her greatest successes. She lauded their authenticity and emotional intelligence, core pillars of her philosophy on her job. “This team has never been stronger, and never added more value. That was one of the things about COVID[-19]. We were able to show the organization just how much value we could add,” she said. “I chose this moment because it felt like the sweet spot of being able to leave at the peak.”
The team also wears many hats. “We are involved in everything from having a chance to review product names, to doing due diligence on possible acquisitions. In many companies, the communications function is the caboose,” Trower added. “The senior communications role is an officer of the company, and that is an indication of how vital a best-in-class communications capability is.”
Trower’s decision to retire came in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, given her distance from her family members. “Not being able to see [my family] in this period was really, really hard for me,” she said. “I became very aware of the fragility of everything, and I want to spend a lot more time with my family.” She is also the board chair of her alma mater, Hollins University, where she will be helping the college’s new president acclimate to her role.
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