Muriel F. Gonzalez, a veteran beauty and fashion executive with a track record of building brands and businesses at Macy’s Inc., Bergdorf Goodman, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and Saks Fifth Avenue, has joined The Vitamin Shoppe as executive vice president, chief merchandising and marketing officer.
It’s a new role at Vitamin Shoppe, signaling an acceleration of modernization efforts for the health and wellness retailer. Gonzalez will spearhead all merchandising and marketing initiatives, “driving a cohesive and integrated vision for The Vitamin Shoppe’s ongoing reinvention,” said Sharon M. Leite, chief executive officer of The Vitamin Shoppe.
“Quite frankly, I needed a partner,” Leite told WWD. “She really gets what I am trying to do with this brand and how we’re moving it forward. Muriel’s unique perspectives from fashion and beauty will be a defining factor as we evolve and elevate The Vitamin Shoppe brand, strengthening the connection between our merchandise and messaging.” Gonzalez starts her job today and reports to Leite, who effectively served as head merchant and head marketer.
The Vitamin Shoppe, which specializes in nutritional products including vitamins and supplements, does sell skin care and natural beauty products such as lotions, soaps, face creams, lip care and aromatherapy, but it’s a secondary category. There could be some beauty additions going forward, though that’s not the priority for Gonzalez. As Leite explained, “Muriel will help us strengthen relationships within the vendor community, form additional partnerships, product development and expand our brand outside the traditional four walls of retailing,” to further Vitamin Shoppe’s multichannel profile.
“Health and wellness is something Muriel has become much more interested in,” said Leite.
Leite does see some possible additions to the assortment, such as yoga products, as well as broadening services with nutritionists, and partnerships with other retailers. Last year, The Vitamin Shoppe rolled out small shops inside several L.A. Fitness gyms, though they were dismantled due to COVID-19. Leite said the lessons learned could be applied to future partnerships.
Since October, the specialty retailer has been renovating its stores to be easier to shop and with presentations that make it easier to learn about products and technologies such as biometric readers and vending machines for samples, which also collect customer data.
The 700-unit Vitamin Shoppe had up to 90 locations closed at various times due to COVID-19 and many reduced operating hours. In the second quarter, revenues were $237.7 million, compared to $270.9 million in the year-ago period. Adjusting for store closures due to the pandemic and civil unrest, comparable-store sales were down about 3.1 percent. As stores returned to normal operating hours in July, comparable-store sales grew by more than 10 percent. The Vitamin Shoppe has the advantage of having stores in strip centers rather than malls.
“As we evolve out of COVID-19, there will be ‘white space’ and opportunities to launch new brands,” said Leite. “Muriel will help us sniff those out. Anything that fits within natural health and wellness lifestyle, we are open to explore those doors.”
“I have seen the interest in healthy, active lifestyles influence trends across the entire retail landscape for years,” Gonzalez said. “I’m especially excited to join the dynamic team at The Vitamin Shoppe at a time when this interest is more relevant than ever.…I see incredible opportunities to reach new consumers, new categories and a new lifestyle positioning that truly delivers on the potential of this brand.”
Reporting to Gonzalez are the merchandising, marketing, product development and private brands, content and creative teams.
Gonzalez previously held senior merchandising roles at Macy’s from 2006 to 2017, rising to executive vice president and general merchandise manager of the retailer’s $3.7 billion beauty business. Earlier at Macy’s, Gonzalez held divisional merchandise manager roles in fragrances, women’s shoes, handbags, accessories, jewelry and intimate apparel. She built up the fragrance business, grew the trendy Impulse beauty department and changed the face of first-floor beauty and second-floor shoes at the Herald Square flagship. She also brought in previously unavailable brands, among them Tom Ford, Kiehl’s, La Mer, Jo Malone, Yves Saint Laurent and Hermès.
Gonzalez was also a senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Bergdorf Goodman, and held jobs at Saks Fifth Avenue, Estée Lauder North America, Ann Taylor and John Wanamaker.