KAPP QUITS LAUDER ‘NET
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Seven years after pioneering The Estee Lauder Cos. Internet presence, Angela Kapp has resigned her post as senior vice president and general manager of the beauty giant’s ELC Online division to launch an Internet consulting firm.
Kapp will stay on as a consultant to Lauder for both its Internet and its new Customer Relationship Management program, said William Lauder, president of Clinique Laboratories Inc. But he added: “We’ve been talking about this for more than a year. She wanted to change the nature of her relationship with us. This was something that works well for her and that we are comfortable with.”
Lauder, who spoke during a break in an all-day strategy meeting, said that Kapp’s move shouldn’t have any effect on day-to-day operations at ELC Online, which is prepping for the launch of Gloss.com
A high-spirited Kapp, meanwhile, said Thursday afternoon that she was ready for the next phase.
“I’m anxious to do other things,” she said. At the same time, though, she’s eager to make sure that Gloss.com gets off the ground in good shape. Kapp was instrumental in Lauder’s acquisition of Gloss.com last spring, and has been rebuilding it for its spring launch. The Web site will be the home for all of Lauder’s brands online and is expected to roil the beauty e-tail world — particularly its main competitor, Sephora.com.
“I thought this was the natural turning point,” Kapp said during a phone interview from her Lauder office here. She’s seen Lauder’s Internet division go from two people — her and an assistant — to a staff of 75 with separate offices. “But now we’re at a point where senior management — Fred [Langhammer, president and chief executive officer of The Estee Lauder Cos.] and William have a complete strategy and can talk about where they want to go,” she added.
Kapp’s move will also give her some good critical distance from the Gloss Web site.
“I won’t have the day-to-day of signing purchase orders and dealing with all those issues,” she said. “At the same time, it gives everyone at ELC Online a chance to move up. I joke with my team that I don’t actually do anything, I just make it possible for them to do their jobs. Of course, every once in a while I wave a big stick around just to remind them.”
In fact, the high level of staff loyalty — she said that only three staffers have ever left the division in its seven-year history — is among Kapp’s proudest achievements. Others include the day the Clinique Web site — launched in 1995, when most companies had only an inkling of the Internet’s importance — clocked its one-millionth registered user.
“That, and the fact that the senior management at Estee Lauder really listened to us,” she said. “One of the reasons I wanted to work here is that Estee Lauder is one of the best-managed companies out there. We have enlightened management. Fred may not shop online himself, but he gets why it’s important, that it helps to build the brand.”
The move to consulting will give Kapp some good critical distance on Gloss’s developments. “Sometimes you get so immersed,” she said. “This will let me step back and say, ‘What didn’t I see?”‘
In addition to her role at Lauder, Kapp said she’s not wedded to beauty Internet sites and will explore other business areas including helping tech companies get their new ideas out to the appropriate markets and working with luxury click-and-mortar ventures. When asked if she could ever see herself getting involved with a Lauder competitor like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which owns the Sephora perfumery chain and e-tail business, Kapp said: “Well, that in particular is a very complex relationship. But that aside, I would always be sensitive to any potential conflicts, and in no way, shape or form would anything conflict with my ongoing relationship with Estee Lauder.”
But what Kapp wants to move onto now is the larger arena. “The multiple-category online arena still has a tremendous amount to learn,” she said. “What I bring to the table is the ability to help the bricks and clicks establish, maximize and leverage brand equity to make their online business successful, and have it feed all areas.” A dynamic public speaker, Kapp said she also plans to work the conference and roundtable circuit. “That’s in part for my ego,” she said. “A friend of mine who does event planning said, ‘How often do people applaud you in everyday life?’ So I thought, why not?”‘
Until she gets her office here set up, she’ll be communicating mostly through her domain name: angelakapp.com. She’ll also be at the ELC Online offices a few days a week.
“The idea was to make the transition as untraumatic as possible,” she said. “Instead of, ‘Today you see me, tomorrow you don’t,’ it will be, ‘Today you see me, tomorrow you see me a little less.”‘