The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. has named a new president of its online division.
Dennis McEniry, who has been with the company for the past 20 years, is retiring from his position as the inaugural president of ELC Online. He will be succeeded by Gibu Thomas, effective Nov. 16, who will report directly to Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer.
McEniry joined Lauder as vice president of technology in 2001, five years after William P. Lauder launched the company’s e-commerce platform. In 2003, McEniry was named president of ELC Online. He has since grown the business from four, U.S.-based web sites to 350 brand web sites, with a presence in more than 50 countries.
In a statement, Freda called McEniry a “truly innovative and visionary digital leader.”
“As the inaugural president of ELC Online, he has overseen the formation and incredible expansion of this division,” Freda said. “Omnichannel and online are more important and quickly evolving than ever before, and we are poised for continued success in these areas thanks to Dennis’ work. His positive energy, dynamic leadership style and unique ability to marry the art and science of online will certainly be missed.”
ELC Online accounted for 22 percent of the company’s net sales in fiscal 2020. The online business has been growing “faster than any other channel in the company” for years, McEniry said, adding that women beauty enthusiasts have been driving the channel’s success.
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ELC Online is only expected to grow as consumers rely more upon online shopping due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“In lockdown, we grew much faster than any other channel, as consumers couldn’t buy in-store,” McEniry said in an interview. “We know that consumers will buy beauty evermore online than they ever did. In every country around the world, we have amazing data that shows that this will be their preferred channel. Last year, [online accounted for] 22 percent of sales. During lockdown, it was much higher. It’s much higher in this fiscal year. Going forward, this will end up being the biggest part of our business.”
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital, with businesses investing heavily in technologies that make online shopping easy, appealing and comparable to the in-store experience. Lauder has been investing in livestreaming and live video chat, McEniry said. Following March’s COVID-19 lockdown orders, he and his team — which is 84 percent women — brought more than 500 of Lauder’s in-store employees online, allowing them to work remotely during the pandemic.
“We decided to provide expertise online in the early Aughts, but we added literally hundreds of [online beauty advisers] during the lockdown in the U.S. and around the world,” McEniry said. “More than 500 people were not able to work in-store, and we were able to bring them online, like all of us, doing it remotely.
“What we built our brands on for 70-plus years, [consumers] will get online,” he continued. “One of the most exciting innovations is doing that at speed and, frankly, faster than any other competitor has done.”
McEniry will be succeeded by Thomas, who joins Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. from PepsiCo, where he led a global team of more than 300 people for the past five years as senior vice president and global head of e-commerce.
In a statement to WWD, Freda praised Thomas’ “proven record of success in e-commerce, technology infrastructure, digital media, mobile and omnichannel.”
“Throughout his exemplary career, which includes leading digital enterprises to scale at large global businesses as well as extensive entrepreneurial experience in Silicon Valley start-ups, he has driven meaningful, transformative growth for global brands with speed and agility,” Freda said of Thomas.
Prior to PepsiCo, Thomas was the senior vice president of mobile and digital at Walmart Inc. He worked in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur in the early to mid-Aughts. One of the start-ups he helped build, Bluelark Systems, was acquired by Handspring in 2001 for a reported $16 million.
Upon his retirement, McEniry plans to travel with his wife — COVID-19 restrictions, depending. The future of online shopping, he said, is on mobile devices.
“All of the connection to shopping in the future — not only online shopping, but shopping in general, whether it’s brick-and-mortar or online — will be through someone’s phone,” McEniry said. “Everything from video to information to livestreaming, social media. People will connect to things they like via their phone and we know that all of our innovation will come through the phone. It won’t come through desktop or anything like that. We‘re excited about deploying everything from loyalty to omnichannel features to video. That’s where the focus of innovation will be.”
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