Bill George has been named chief executive officer of Freeman Beauty. George joins Freeman from Markwins North America, where he is credited with building the company into a major force in mass market beauty retailing. He takes over from Jon Achenbaum at Freeman who has left the company to spend more time with his family.
“What draws me here is the rich history. Freeman has incredible brands, passionate consumers and is a great trading partner,” George told WWD. “Coming into an organization whose brands have such great bones is a great place to build. We have an incredible foundation, product, people and [retail] partners.”
Freeman makes skin-care, hair-care, foot-care and specialty bath and body products under its Feeling Beautiful, Beauty Infusion, Psssst, Bare Foot, C. Booth and Feeling Legendary lines. Its fastest-growing segment is the facial mask category, where industry data pegs it as the market leader with sales expanding at more than 30 percent.
“We are the number-one brand in units and dollars,” George said. “That’s a powerful statement in this rapidly emerging category. They have a head start on others and have built a loyal following with customers.” George realized the loyalty of users when he noticed his Millennial daughter was a fan of the brand. That helped seal the deal for him to take on the role, along with the respect George has for Yellow Wood partners, which acquired Freeman last year. “The partners in the firm are exceptional. They have an amazing track record,” George said about Yellow Wood. “They are also passionate about the products and that is a unique nuance you don’t always find.”
You May Also Like
Less than a week into the job, George is hammering out a growth plan that includes expanding with the customer base, but also expanding into channels and bolstering international sales now pegged at about 15 percent of total sales. He sees fertile opportunities beyond the traditional mass-market physical doors, including building up e-commerce. “We’ve done a good job in the segments we are in, but our game plan is to really support the marketing initiatives and take advantage of the Yellow Wood resources so we can really expand the product portfolio and do so with speed-to-market.” The latter will be key, he said, because many mass-market beauty brands are feeling the “headwinds of change,” that leaves them behind competitors, especially online and specialty channels.
There are opportunities to build Freeman’s portfolio beyond masks, he said, noting that Psssst was the first dry shampoo. “Dry shampoo is hot. We also are in specialty bath and that’s growing. What’s great about Yellow Wood is they are willing to invest in the brands.” George added Freeman will be on the hunt for acquisitions.