A few weeks after one of the key architects of Ulta Beauty‘s success in the prestige category was confirmed to be leaving, the retailer has revealed a series of senior leadership changes.
Chief store operations officer Kecia Steelman, who reports directly to Ulta chief executive officer Mary Dillon, has expanded her role to include president of international, in which she’ll oversee the Illinois-based company’s expansion into Canada. Under president Dave Kimbell, Monica Arnaudo, formerly senior vice president of merchandising overseeing mass and professional, has been promoted to chief merchandising officer, leading the entire merchandising and assortment strategy. Shelley Haus was promoted to chief marketing officer, leading all brand-building and consumer initiatives, and Prama Bhatt was promoted to chief digital officer, overseeing digital and e-commerce.
“Ulta Beauty has focused on the customer since we were founded almost 30 years ago, and the next step is creating a leadership team with a clear focus on understanding and evolving and continuing to delight and excite our guests every day,” said Kimbell. “[This] positions us well to have the right leaders in place on a unified team.”
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In light of the promotions, Kimbell has dropped chief merchandising and marketing officer from his title and as the retailer’s president will oversee merchandising, marketing, digital and corporate strategy.
The leadership changes come just a few weeks after it was confirmed that Tara Simon, Ulta’s former senior vice president of merchandising overseeing the prestige category, is leaving the company. Simon, who was with the company for more than seven years, was the key decision-maker behind taking in some of the indie brands that would grow into major successes, such as It Cosmetics. Prestige makeup has been a key factor in Ulta’s growth, and Simon helped bring in many major players, from MAC to Kylie Cosmetics, as well as broker exclusive product launches that would become cult favorites, such as Tarte’s Shape Tape concealer.
Simon’s departure and the subsequent leadership changes are also coming at a tough time for prestige cosmetics in the U.S. Sales have been sliding, and were down 7 percent in the most recent quarter, according to The NPD Group, to $1.7 billion.
For the third fiscal quarter, Ulta’s sales increased 7.9 percent to about $1.7 billion, but saw a low single-digit decline in prestige makeup and a low single-digit increase in mass makeup.
Prior to Simon exiting, she and Arnaudo worked as counterparts leading the merchandising teams, with Simon overseeing prestige and Arnaudo overseeing mass. But Simon’s departure and Arnaudo’s promotion place Arnaudo as the sole leader overseeing both categories, under Kimbell. Arnaudo joined the company in late 2017 around the time of Ulta’s first New York store opening. She is a beauty industry veteran with experience mostly in the prestige category, at companies including Sephora and Bare Escentuals. At Ulta, she has been credited with transforming the retailer’s mass assortment to include more emerging, digitally-native brands, such as Makeup Revolution, Morphe, ColourPop, Juvia’s Place and Florence by Mills, a makeup and skin-care line from actress Millie Bobby Brown.
Kimbell did not comment on a specific timeline for the expansion into Canada.
The leadership changes, he said, are “not a reaction to a changing marketplace as much as a leadership evolution that we really believe sets us up for long-term, sustained growth going forward.”
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