Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — Less than two years after taking over the reins of Kiehl’s Since 1851, Michelle Taylor, president, has announced that she will step down later this month. Taylor, who formerly served as senior vice president of marketing for Lancome, senior vice president and general manager of Frederic Fekkai and vice president of marketing for Chanel Beaute, is moving to Santa Barbara, Calif., and will work with the holding company for San Ysidro Ranch and the Santa Barbara Biltmore, located nearby. Her last day at Kiehl’s will be April 15.
“This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I have four young children and want to spend more time with my family,” said Taylor. “This has been in the works for two months. During that time, L’Oreal conducted an intensive search and came up with a terrific person to continue the brand’s growth into the future.”
Replacing Taylor as president of Kiehl’s is Edgar Huber, currently managing director of L’Oreal’s Luxury Products Division in the United Kingdom. Huber, who begins at Kiehl’s later this month, joined L’Oreal in 1992 in France, in the company’s active cosmetics division. In 1994, he became managing director of La Roche-Posay, a pharmaceutical line, in Germany, and in 1996 became assistant managing director of Lancome France. He took over his current role in 2000.
“Michelle has done a tremendous job of transitioning the Kiehl’s brand and of staying true to the brand’s heritage,” said Luc Nadeau, president of L’Oreal’s Luxury Products Division, to whom Taylor has reported and to whom Huber will report. “We understand her decision, but are very sorry to see her go. However, Edgar will be a fantastic asset to our corporation. He has extensive experience in specialty store distribution, a great track record and he has a real affinity for the Kiehl’s brand. We think it’s a perfect match.”
“Since joining Kiehl’s in August of 2000, Michelle has led the successful development of Kiehl’s in both the U.S. and internationally,” said Jean-Paul Agon, president and chief executive officer of L’Oreal USA, in a statement. “We thank her for her leadership and wish her well.”
Four months before Taylor joined Kiehl’s, L’Oreal announced its intention to acquire the indie brand from Jami Morse Heidegger and Klaus Heidegger. While the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, industry sources speculate that Kiehl’s was purchased for an estimated $150 million to $180 million. At the time of the acquisition, Kiehl’s had an estimated wholesale volume of $40 million; industry sources speculate that the company has grown 20 percent a year since then, pushing wholesale volume to between $55 million and $60 million.
“When it acquired Kiehl’s, L’Oreal made a commitment to let the entrepreneurial spirit of the brand continue,” said Taylor. “What L’Oreal brought to the party was infrastructure. We’ve had the ability to strengthen all of the frameworks necessary to grow the brand over the last year and a half. I feel comfortable that my departure isn’t going to be a curveball for Kiehl’s. The brand is well understood throughout the organization.”
Until it was acquired by L’Oreal USA, Kiehl’s had one freestanding store, in New York’s East Village, as well as selected specialty store distribution in just under 200 doors. Under Taylor’s guidance, the company opened its second freestanding store, a 1,500-square-foot space in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Two more freestanding stores are set to open this summer: one in Boston in June and another in Los Angeles in August. The brand will also open its second point of sale in Paris this month with a 350-square-foot shop at the Bon Marche department store. As well, the brand recently opened a shop-in-shop at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chicago.
While plans are to open two to three retail stores a year for at least the next five years, Nadeau noted that the brand is also very committed to growing with existing retail partners — which include Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom — rather than opening a slew of new doors.

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