Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Since its arrival in the U.S. four years ago, Lancaster Group USA has been characterized by lightning-quick expansion driven by a rapid succession of fragrance launches.
Now the company has paused to refocus its selling effort and cut down on the size of its field force. Norbert Becker, the recently named president and chief executive officer of the U.S. division, said this week that Lancaster’s two sales forces — fragrance and skin care — have been merged into one. About 40 of the original roster of 108 sales representatives will be laid off, Becker said.
“We think we can provide better service,” Becker said. “We want to focus more on our retail accounts and customers than on the cosmetics or fragrances,” he said.
By assigning salespeople to the key retail accounts within a certain market, rather than having them specialize in either Lancaster’s fragrance or skin care brands, the sales effort can become more effective, Becker noted.
“One salesperson could cover more doors,” he said, adding that if one door is doing only $10,000, the rep could also cover others. “In some instances, they could visit a store once a week and, in others, once a month. We can pay more attention to the important doors and those that have the potential to grow.”
Lancaster did an estimated $130 million in wholesale volume last year, a 20 to 25 percent increase over 1993, according to sources. The company does not break out figures.
The company’s distribution ranges from 2,000 department store doors for its Davidoff Cool Water men’s fragrance down to 400 doors for the Lancaster skin care brand.
In addition to Cool Water and Davidoff Zino, Lancaster has the Wolfgang Joop, Jil Sander and Chopard fragrance brands. Monteil Paris is another skin care brand.
Richard D. Roderick, formerly vice president of fragrance sales, has been named senior vice president of the combined organization. Charlene Holt, who was vice president of cosmetics sales, is now vice president of national accounts for both fragrances and cosmetics.
She will call on retailers at their headquarters, both on a corporate and divisional level, while the sales force services individual stores in the regional markets.
Bradley Friedrich, who was vice president of fragrance marketing, has been given additional responsibility over cosmetics.
Becker was named head of Lancaster’s American subsidiary in early December, succeeding Richard G. Hartigan, who established the company in the U.S.
Becker said the consolidation of the sales force was driven not by a desire for increased profits, but by a quest to provide better
“To let people go has an impact on cost,” he conceded, “but this was not the purpose.”