NEW YORK — As executives from all levels of the beauty industry come together for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association’s annual convention, much of the talk will center on change.
While many bright spots did exist, notably the resurgence of classic fragrance brands, the latest Christmas selling season was on the whole mediocre — and many in the industry say this is emblematic of a stagnant situation when it comes to traditional marketing.
“It’s a static marketplace in terms of dollars, and I’m sure it was actually down in terms of units,” said Robert Brady, president of Parfums Givenchy. When the schmoozing begins on Feb. 28, attendees will discuss the usual: who’s buying whom, upcoming fragrance launches, their golf handicaps. But they will also talk of how to jumpstart those areas of the business that have been lifeless of late.
“The big issue is how to create excitement in the marketplace,” said Geoffrey Webster, president of Givaudan-Roure’s U.S. division. “The basic need is to get consumers interested in our products again.”
“Business is there if you go after it,” said Leonard Lauder, chief executive officer and chairman of the EstAe Lauder Cos. “New ideas, new presentations and new products always sell. It’s only when we wind up doing the same thing year after year in the same boring way that business gets flat.”
Philip Shearer, LancOme’s senior vice president and general manager, noted that the industry “is guilty, especially at holiday time, of having too much going on at once that is similar. It is confusing for the consumer. Everyone has to work harder to make their offerings more attractive and distinctive.”
“A business-as-usual mentality doesn’t work for anyone anymore,” said George Fellows, president and chief operating officer of Revlon Consumer Products Corp. “We all need to stretch beyond it.”
One of the remedies recommended by the executives is to pay close attention to alternative ventures — chiefly private label lines like The Gap’s collection, or new and noteworthy outlets like TV shopping. But chiefly, retailers, manufacturers and suppliers are looking to overhaul the old ways of doing business.
Joanne P. Hickey, merchandise manager at Mercantile Stores Co. Inc. in Fairfield, Ohio, said retailers have to find new ways to interest the consumer.
“We are so brand-identified,” she said. “What we have to do is get back to more special events. We’ve gotten into the belief that if we put the merchandise out on a table at a special price, [the consumer] will go for it.” On an upbeat note, exports from U.S. cosmetics firms are on the increase as trade barriers continue to come down, making for a global marketplace.
Not only are most of the world’s developing nations jettisoning controlled economies for market-based ones, but “they now are making a commitment to international trade,” said Louis Santucci, international vice president of the CTFA. “They are realizing that foreign products and companies coming into their markets is a very good thing for their economies and consumers.”

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