Byline: Robert Sharoff

CINCINNATI — Mercantile Stores Inc. is on its way to doubling its beauty business, according to David Nichols, chairman and chief executive officer of the 101-store chain.
His remarks came at the company’s annual Elegance Awards, held last week at the Hyatt Regency. The awards, inaugurated in 1983, honor the chain’s top beauty vendors and products. In 1994, when Mercantile’s beauty volume accounted for about 6 percent of total sales, Nichols said the chain’s goal was to double that. He did not suggest a time frame. Last year, the percentage had jumped to 10 percent, and Nichols said the category is expected to reach 12 percent by the end of 1997. Mercantile had total sales of about $2.9 billion last year, with beauty accounting for $290 million of that figure. Nichols said the cosmetics business had been sparked in particular by Maison Blanche, which it acquired in 1992.
“Some of Maison’s stores do as much as 20 percent of their volume in cosmetics. It was a business they knew a lot about,” Nichols said.
Mercantile’s other divisions include Bacon’s, McAlpin’s, Gayfers, Joslins and the Jones Store.
Although it honored the company’s suppliers, another primary function of the awards ceremony was to recognize the store’s top salespeople and department managers. The company has about 2,200 cosmetics associates, and 75 were singled out for their contributions in 1995. The top vendor award of the evening — the Partnership Award — went to Ralph Lauren Fragrances and was accepted by Jack Wiswall, Lauren’s senior vice president and general manager. The award for the fragrance launch of the year went to Pleasures by Estee Lauder. The top men’s fragrance launch was Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy, and the top treatment launch was LancOme’s Primordiale. Among the cosmetics executives on hand for the evening were Peter England, president of Elizabeth Arden; Robert Cassou, vice president of sales for Lancome; Geoffrey Donaldson, president of Revlon’s department store group, and Neil Katz, president of Liz Claiborne Cosmetics. The evening was also a homecoming of sorts for Marty Richner, Mercantile’s newly appointed vice president of cosmetics. For the last year, Richner has been area manager for the Jones Store in the Kansas City market. Before that, she had been in Cincinnati as one of three cosmetics regional managers. “I’ve been away for a year, and it feels great to be back,” she said.

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