NEW YORK — After nearly seven years at the helm of Giorgio Beverly Hills, Linda M. LoRe is calling it quits.
She will step down as president and chief executive officer of the California-based fragrance company Nov. 1. Her duties will be assumed by Robert Jongstra, a vice president and general manager of the French health and beauty care business of Giorgio’s parent, Procter & Gamble Co.
Jongstra’s title will be different from LoRe’s, reflecting the change in organization after P&G acquired Giorgio from Avon Products in 1994. In addition to being president and ceo, LoRe was also vice president and general manager of Giorgio products worldwide.
Jongstra will be vice president and general manager of fine fragrances, Western Hemisphere. He will report to Michael Thompson, regional vice president of global fine fragrance, cosmetics and adult skin care products, Europe, in Egham, England.
Jongstra, who joined P&G in 1982, will relocate from Paris to Santa Monica, Calif., by Oct. 1.
LoRe will continue with P&G as a consultant on fine fragrance and on the Giorgio Beverly Hills boutique in Santa Monica. Her contract, which is renewable, runs to August.
“It was time for a change,” said LoRe, who said she decided she had been at Giorgio long enough. “It was time to move on with my life.”
LoRe said she expects to do some consulting — in beauty, fashion or retailing. But she has made no decisions.
“I’ve been with Giorgio so many years, I need a little bit of time to get it together,” she said. “I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. It’s very positive. P&G was very good to me. I don’t leave with any regrets.”
LoRe has been dealing with Giorgio since 1983, when she launched its signature fragrance in her capacity as fragrance buyer at Robinson’s in Los Angeles. The Robinson’s debut came a few months after the fragrance was introduced in the East at Bloomingdale’s.
She joined Giorgio four years later as vice president of sales planning and development. She was named vice president of marketing the following year and senior vice president the year after that.
LoRe became president and ceo in 1991, succeeding Michael Gould, who became chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s in New York.
When P&G acquired Giorgio, it already owned Eurocos Cosmetic GmbH, in Germany, a company headed by president Walter Farnsteiner, who is also a P&G vice president and general manager.
P&G meshed the two companies into a worldwide fine fragrance division. Eurocos had the Laura Biagiotti, Hugo Boss and Otto Kern fragrances, while Giorgio provided its brands plus a key element, a U.S. sales force.
Farnsteiner continues to run the European business, while Jongstra will be in charge of North and South America.
The combined fine fragrance business totals $500 million wholesale, according to estimates by industry sources. It is evenly spit between the U.S. and the rest of the world. The Giorgio fragrances reportedly generate the largest chunk of sales, but Boss is catching up, thanks to its hot Hugo and Hugo Woman scents.
LoRe views this as a good time to leave, since the Boss business is surging in the U.S. and the Giorgio business has achieved stability.
Giorgio’s Ocean Dream, which was launched last in a crowded field of introductions, is not producing blockbuster numbers, she admitted, but added, “It’s doing a healthy business.”
Deborah Matthews, divisional merchandise manager of Mercantile Stores Corp. in Cincinnati, said her Boss business is hot. Mercantile launched Hugo Woman two weeks ago and it hit number three in the volume rankings. The men’s version of Hugo picked up 144 percent in the same period, boosted by the promotional support behind Hugo Woman.
Her Giorgio business, however, is running “flat to down.” Ocean Dream launched strongly, then faded.
“I have a great deal of respect for Linda LoRe,” Matthews continued, “but from a marketing point of view, a lot more could be done with the Giorgio master brands.”
Industry consultant Allen Mottus lauded LoRe, citing her efforts in “cleaning up” the diversion of Giorgio and Red brands. He also characterized the launches of Ocean Dream and Giorgio Aire last year as “well researched.”
But Mottus voiced the sentiments of other observers in noting that the department store market has grown much tougher since P&G bought Eurocos and Giorgio.
“It’s not only tougher, but more capital-intensive,” he said. “The big brands that gain the momentum get the capital backing. Running a Giorgio with a market share of 1.5 percent is not an enviable place to be.
“When the day is done,” Mottus continued, “you can have all the success in the world, but unless you have the department stores behind you, it’s like throwing yourself against a wall.”
For its part, P&G supported LoRe with a statement. “We’re sorry to see Linda leave,” said John E. Pepper, P&G chairman and ceo.
“Her leadership and knowledge of the prestige fragrance business have been invaluable to us as we integrated Giorgio into our worldwide fragrance business. We’re grateful for her many contributions and we wish her the very best.”

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