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Coty Lands Industry Retail Veteran Shannon Curtin

Former Walgreens beauty executive will join Coty Inc. following acquisition of former P&G brands.

Shannon Curtin will join Coty Inc. as the senior vice president North America, Coty consumer beauty, following the completion of the merger with Procter & Gamble Specialty Beauty. In the interim, Curtin, who previously was group vice president of beauty and personal care at Walgreens, will serve as the U.S. general manager, beginning May 23.

Following the completion of the merger, Curtin will report to Esi Eggleston Bracey, the future president of Coty Consumer Beauty. Both will be based in Coty’s New York office. The $12.5 billion deal is expected to be completed in the second half of 2016.

The news comes a week after the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting where the buzz about who would lead the beauty behemoth simmered to the top of discussions.

With more than 15 years of experience at giants Wal-Mart and Walgreens, Curtin is expected to be a popular choice among the trade — especially now that she’s no longer a competitor. In fact, one retailer practically described Curtin last week, ticking off her wish list for Coty’s new mass brand leadership. “We need someone who understands the consumer and who is more retailer-friendly,” the executive said prior to learning of Curtin’s appointment.

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Eggleston Bracey concurred, noting Curtin’s leadership experience will help manage the complexity of building a new Coty from the ground up. It is expected the resulting company will be the number-one global fragrance power, while ascending to the third leading spot in cosmetics.

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“Shannon’s unique perspective of beauty from inside the retailer will ensure our product development, sales approach and marketing are developed with our customers squarely at the center,” said Eggleston Bracey. “We don’t want to take the ‘retailer’ out of her because she knows firsthand what it takes to create value with shoppers and how to help retailers get shoppers into stores.”

Curtin plans to leverage her background as Coty builds a new beauty power from the ground up with the integration of 41 brands from P&G. “I speak the retail language fluently,” Curtin said. She will be responsible for Coty Consumer Beauty — one of three divisions that Coty is carving out. The brand portfolio includes Cover Girl, Rimmel, Sally Hansen, Bourjois, NYC New York Color along with retail hair color and styling, the body business and lifestyle fragrances. The other two divisions are Coty Luxury and Coty Professional.

During her career at Walgreens, Curtin was highly respected for in-depth understanding of shopper trends. She provided leadership for Walgreens’ network of 26,000 beauty advisers in the field and held financial responsibility for more than $5 billion in revenue for the 8,200-store chain.

She spearheaded a beauty-adviser training program and launched a consumer beauty publication. Under her direction, Walgreens launched two major exclusive brands, Circa and Colour Prevails.

After departing Walgreens eight months ago, Curtin created a consulting company advising retailers, manufacturers and private equity firms, which she credits for broadening her understanding of manufacturing needs.

Curtin also held a variety of merchandising positions for nine years at Wal-Mart. Her roots in beauty stretch back to selling fragrance at her hometown department store.

All eyes will be on her ability to get Coty’s consumer beauty brands back on track, especially Sally Hansen, the engine that drives nail color. According to Nielsen data for the most recent 12 weeks ended April 9, Sally Hansen, Rimmel, NYC and Cover Girl sales were all down, while overall cosmetics sales were up 4 percent.

“We must have a flawless merger and integration that will be handled with great care,” said Curtin. “I’m excited to be on this side and creating innovation. I also know we need great in-store execution and we are focusing on what our brands will look like in stores. I look forward to great business planning sessions showing our suite of assets,” Curtin said.