Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — Over the past 22 years, Aveda has been a pioneer in bringing botanically based hair care, skin care and cosmetics to mainstream America, and in the process has built a business estimated at more than $250 million wholesale — all without the benefit of a president.
Until Thursday.
That’s when Aveda’s parent, the Estee Lauder Cos., announced that it had hired Dominique Nils Conseil — who had been running archrival L’Oreal’s Japanese business — for the role.
Conseil is now president and representative director for Cosmelor Ltd., Japan, the L’Oreal Parfums and Beaute division that oversees the Lancome, Helena Rubinstein and Biotherm skin care and cosmetics brands and the Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Lanvin fragrances in Japan.
Conseil will join Aveda on July 1 and will be based in both New York and Minneapolis.
Conseil is the latest in a string of newly installed executives for the brand, which is in a state of accelerated evolution. Daria Myers, formerly senior vice president of global marketing for Lauder’s Origins brand, took over the same role for Aveda in November. Sandy Cookerly Jones, vice president of marketing, was at Urban Brands, an ethnic marketer, and came on board in November; and Matthijs Tellegen, vice president and general manager of Aveda International, formerly general manager for Lauder’s South African business, was named to the team last June.
All three had been reporting to Jeanette S. Wagner, vice chairman of the Estee Lauder Cos. However, after Wagner guides Conseil through a training period that is expected to be concluded in late September, Conseil and the rest of the management team will report to Fred Langhammer, president and chief executive officer for the Estee Lauder Cos.
“Mrs. Wagner had been, in effect, serving as a de facto president as we were searching for a permanent president,” said Langhammer, who noted that there has been no president at least since Lauder acquired the Minneapolis-based brand in December 1997 for $300 million in cash.
“She will stay on the Aveda brand to train Dominique Conseil, and then she will take on other projects.”
Wagner said she will next turn her attentions to helping to nurture fledgling Lauder brands and to developing new acquisitions. “As vice chairman of Lauder, Fred has assigned me to work with all of our new acquisitions to set them on the path for great growth,” said Wagner, who has already played that role with Aveda and Jane.
While the president’s role is a new one, Aveda has always had strong leadership. From the company’s inception in 1978, founder Horst Rechelbacher functioned as ceo; today, he is a consultant to the company.
“We’ve actually been looking for a president since we acquired the company,” said Langhammer. “There were several challenges, however.”
According to Langhammer, it boiled down to two major issues: “It was necessary to have someone who truly believed in the Aveda mission and philosophy — someone who could truly understand and empathize with the brand,” he said. “Second, it was necessary to have someone with incredible business skills, someone that was capable of running a company. We saw an incredible number of people with either one quality or the other, but not both — until we met Dominique.”
Langhammer calls Conseil “a builder.”
“He has proven ability in developing brands and producing dramatic growth in sales, profitability and market share. He has had experience in every area, from sales and field management to marketing to training to merchandising. And he has a real passion for Aveda and a desire to help it meet its mission and realize its true potential,” said Langhammer.
International will be a major focus for Aveda going forward, said Langhammer. And while Conseil’s responsibilities will be for the U.S. and Canada, his input will undoubtedly be valuable to Tellegen, who handles Aveda’s international business.
Aveda has traditionally been underrepresented in the international arena, although appointing Tellegen last summer was a first step in addressing this issue. Aveda is now in 27 countries, about the same number of markets as when Lauder acquired the firm.
But that will soon change. Within the next 18 months, some of the existing Aveda products will head to Japan, and there are also plans in place to develop specific products for Asian hair, said Wagner. The brand already has a strong foothold in Asia with its Korean distributor, the Seoul-based Aveco, which reportedly racked up more than $1.5 million in wholesale sales last year.
“Japan is the largest hair market in the world, and it represents great opportunity,” said Langhammer. “Germany also is a strong hair market with a great deal of potential, and we plan to increase our market share there, particularly within the next 12 months.”
The U.K. is currently Aveda’s largest market outside the U.S., said Langhammer.
Wagner added that the brand is exceeding plan. “Aveda has the potential to be [Lauder’s] third billion-dollar global brand,” she said. Estee Lauder, as a company, reported net sales of $4 billion for the year that ended June 30. “In the future, we expect that Aveda’s breakdowns in terms of percentages globally will follow Lauder’s overall percentages,” Wagner added. “They don’t yet, but they will.”
But it won’t come at the expense of the brand’s overall philosophy, both Wagner and Langhammer emphasized. “It’s not about commercializing the brand,” said Langhammer. “Aveda has a philosophy of believing in the total well-being concept. That is what has made us successful.
“At acquisition, the brand was primarily focused in the U.S. — our ability to make it a global power was one of the reasons Horst came to us in the first place,” said Langhammer. “There are great opportunities around the globe for Aveda that haven’t been fully realized.”
According to industry sources, Aveda — whose sales were estimated at about $180 million wholesale at the time of the acquisition — has grown an average of 20 percent per year since Lauder made the purchase. Neither Wagner nor Langhammer would comment. By industry estimates, however, Aveda likely did at least $250 million wholesale globally in the last fiscal year.
The company, currently in about 10,000 salon doors and more than 200 Environmental Lifestyle Stores worldwide, has cut salon doors by more than 50 percent since the acquisition, inspiring speculation that the company is looking to get out of the salon industry.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, said Langhammer. “Salons are a major part of the heritage of this brand, and we are absolutely committed to them,” said Langhammer. “We just felt that less was more.”
He added that rather than carrying one shampoo here or one conditioner there going forward, salons will now carry the entire Aveda range. “We felt that anyone who wants to carry the line should be prepared to sign onto the Aveda concept, in terms of providing the service and the philosophy of the brand. It’s not about selling more stuff.”
Langhammer said the firm, which has beefed up its hair care, skin care and color cosmetics lines, will enhance all of its businesses — including its spa products assortment — in the future. Wagner also pointed out that other opportunities exist.
The company also entered the hair accessories category this spring, and Wagner said that great opportunities also exist in customization — an arena that Aveda has been involved in for years.
“Through our Sensory Journeys, we have for years afforded consumers the ability to choose their own scents for custom-blended products,” she said. “This area continues to represent enormous opportunity and we will continue to expand and exploit that. And there are areas that we haven’t even touched — like children’s — that are on the drawing board.”