Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Winternight was anything but frosty.
The Tuesday night fund-raiser for the Lighthouse, honoring Guy Peyrelongue of Cosmair Inc., attracted an estimated 970 cosmetics executives, and the mood of the crowd seemed easy.
After the speeches were over, Peyrelongue, Cosmair’s president and chief executive officer, remarked, “I am optimistic.
“There are some areas that are very promising. Skin care is doing very well,” he continued. “There seems to be a sense of glamour returning, and I think that will help the makeup business.”
Peyrelongue added that there should be “some adjustments” in department store ownership this year, but the main crunch of consolidation is over. “We now know where we are,” he noted.
Many of the retailers were in an especially good mood, partly because the January sales results benefited from an easy comparison with last year, when much of the country was lashed by winter storms. However, this year’s new skin care launches also gave a boost to the figures.
“The new launches have been excellent,” said John Stabenau, vice president of Neiman Marcus, Dallas.
Much of the good cheer was an afterglow of a bell ringer Christmas fragrance business.
Robert Stein, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Lord & Taylor, New York, said the chain’s women’s fragrance business showed a “strong double-digit gain” in December, “and men’s followed in the double digits.”
The Broadway, Los Angeles, also ended the year strongly, according to Margo Scavarda, senior vice president and general merchandise manager.
The gains were fueled largely by a wave of construction. A total of 27 cosmetics departments were remodeled and expanded this year in a chain of 83 stores.
The upbeat mood was also reflected by the amount of money raised for the creative arts at the Lighthouse. This year’s total was $975,000, a 40 percent leap over last year’s $695,000, according to organizers.
One old face in the crowd that hasn’t been seen in awhile was that of Joseph Augeri, who retired from Cosmair in August 1993.
Augeri, who helped build Lancôme into one of the industry’s top three brands, was prominent in the market. He reappeared Tuesday night, but Augeri made it clear that he doesn’t miss a business that has become too computer-driven and too consolidation-crazy for his taste.
“The retailers are down to three big merchants,” he said. “The smaller stores are not there anymore.”
Referring to Federated’s announced merger of Rich’s in Atlanta and Lazarus in Cincinnati, Augeri noted, “I don’t know what they have to do with each other.”