The Fragrance Foundation is rethinking its future.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Jill Belasco, chair of The Fragrance Foundation and president and chief executive officer of Coscentrix, briefly touched on the scope of thinking during her speech Monday evening during the organization’s 40th annual FiFi Award ceremonies. “The board is committed to the evolution and revitalization of the Foundation in this year,” she said. Belasco added that the board has begun reformulating the organization’s mission devoted to supporting the industry while attracting a new generation of fragrance consumers. This is built around three words: innovation, education and appreciation.

During an interview, Belasco elaborated, “We’ve known for a while that we’ve had to refine the mission of the Foundation and figure out a way to bring us up to current [standards] and to be able to focus on what our members were asking of us.”

Referring to the retirement last year of The Fragrance Foundation’s president Rochelle Bloom, Belasco added, “We thought it was a good opportunity for us to take some time to do it right. It’s no secret that there are changes that need to be made.”

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While the fragrance business in U.S. department stores has made a startling resurgence in the last 18 months, the category has been severely challenged for a decade, not only in sales but in usage. In recent years, the NPD Group has reported survey results showing that the user base has shrunk slightly. Recently, there has been grumbling by a few executives, suggesting that maybe The Fragrance Foundation should be consolidated with another organization, like Cosmetic Executive Women.

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To help make a transition to a new order, The Fragrance Foundation’s board has hired consultant Regina Limchayseng on an interim basis to help manage the organization on a day-to-day basis. Noting that Limchayseng has extensive not-for-profit experience, Belasco said Limchayseng will help develop long-term strategy. Belasco has been working closely on the overall plan with Art Spiro, executive vice president of fragrance innovation at Elizabeth Arden Inc., and Cosimo Policastro, executive vice president of fine fragrances at Givaudan Fragrances Corp.

But much of the major work is being done by committees of board members. The key area of innovation and the critical task of reaching out to consulting firms for help is being headed by Shashi Batra, president of Victoria’s Secret Beauty. His committee includes Camille McDonald, president of brand development & merchandising at Bath & Body Works; Jerry Vittoria, president of Fine Fragrances N.A., Firmenich Inc.; Denise McEvoy, vice president of global fragrance at Avon Products Inc.; Linda Levy, vice president of marketing, cosmetics & fragrances at Macy’s Inc., and Peter Hunsinger, president and publisher of Golf Digest & Golf World.

The focus on expanding the foundation’s education effort, which now consists largely of training scent specialists at retail, and possibly reaching out and collaborating with universities, is headed by Don Loftus president and ceo of P&G Prestige, U.S. His task force includes Christine Dagousset, executive vice president of fragrances & beauté at Chanel Inc.; Frederic Jacques, vice president of fine fragrance North America, Mane USA, and Mary Ellen Lapsansky, vice president at the foundation. An associate board has been formed to look for new ways to involve younger middle management executives now in the industry in participating more in decision-making and formulating the Foundation’s strategic plans. That panel consists of Donna Kalajian Lagani, senior vice president and publishing director, chief revenue officer of The Cosmopolitan Group at Hearst Corp., and Holly Schmidt, vice resident, merchandising, fragrance, skin care, bath & GWP at Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrances Inc.

During the interview, Belasco, Spiro and Policastro discussed a range of issues from how the Foundation can foster the business, attract more talented young people to join the industry, harness the brain power of universities and consulting groups and — of course — induce consumers to use more fragrance. But it all starts with a healthy organization. Spiro noted, “We really want to structure an organization that’s effective, efficient and that we can execute — so that yes, we have a great ad campaign or we have a great program [and we know] how are we going to execute it and how are we going to fund it. We want to increase consumption.” He added, “There’s a lot of talent in the industry and another goal is to harness the talent.”

Spiro referenced the Foundation’s ill-fated One Mighty Drop ad campaign. As Policastro pointed out, a great idea with no funding, goes nowhere. All three executives agreed that the organization has to be able to produce programs that make financial sense to the membership. “To me the important part of the appreciation [facet] is that the mission is going to have to provide a destination for expertise in all the forms,” Policastro said. “When you talk about lapsed users, the foundation should provide something more inclusive in showing where all the fragrance dollars are going.” Sales may be down in closely watched categories, but “there are other sectors not being reported on, where units are up.”

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