Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 09/07/2012

David Suliteanu is an unlikely revolutionary. A retail veteran, he began his career at Bullocks in Los Angeles and steadily worked his way up the department store ranks to the position of vice chairman and director of stores at Macy’s East. He then spent two years as group president of diversified businesses at The Home Depot before joining Sephora in 2000. Under his tenure as president and chief executive officer, the number of stores has quintupled and sales have grown by a factor of 14. Suliteanu’s strategy basically lays in forgetting everything he learned as a department store retailer, making him the perfect choice for the cover of our Renegade issue, in which we’re celebrating those who have pioneered new ways to do business—and won.

This story first appeared in the September 7, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The predominant language spoken by retailers was a brand language. It was developed by the department store approach, which was brand- centric and continues to be brand-centric today,” Suliteanu told me over the course of my reporting for “Forging a New Model.” “Our approach from the beginning was never brand-centric. It was always client-centric.” That approach has led Sephora to implement some unorthodox—and extremely successful—methods for selling beauty products, be it by singling out a mere six products from thousands as the month’s must-buys or setting up in-store play stations where patrons can do anything from manicures to makeovers. Suliteanu’s current goal is equally audacious: to become the number-one prestige beauty retailer in America. Find out the strategy he and his senior management team have devised to achieve just that.

Sephora was instrumental in the indie-brand boom of the late Nineties. Such brands brought energy, youth and animation to beauty counters across the country. A decade later, they, like Sephora, are now well established, leading some retailers and industry analysts in search of the next generation of game-changing ideas. But as WWD’s beauty financial editor, Molly Prior, reports in “No Bed of Roses,” cultivating and growing an independent makeup brand today is much more challenging than it was a decade ago. Discover today’s emerging indies, and what it will take for them to navigate through the thorny issues confronting them.

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As a perfumer at IFF for eight years, Christophe Laudamiel could be considered a card-carrying member of the establishment. But Laudamiel, who has a master’s degree in chemistry, grew frustrated with the commercial fragrance world and struck out on his own to expand the parameters of perfumery. As outspoken as he is inventive, Laudamiel shares his vision with WWD’s executive editor of beauty, Pete Born, in “Agent Provocateur.” As you’ll see, Laudamiel isn’t shy about expressing his views, and we hope you’re not, either. Drop me a line at and tell me what you think about this issue.

5 Key Points From This Issue

1. Girls Just Want to Have Fun: By pioneering a client-centric approach to retailing that emphasizes the shopping experience, Sephora has gobbled up market share in the U.S. beauty market.

2. Land of Opportunity: In South America, standout brands have strong color statements. Fragrance-wise, designers dominate.

3. Creativity, Not Commoditization: Frédéric Fekkai on the keys to growth in the mass-market hair-care business.

4. Soft Touch: The dominant new texture in fall makeup.

5. Scent Vent: Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel on art driving commerce.