Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — Jeffrey M. Nugent, Revlon’s president and chief executive officer, is unfurling his blueprint for the future.
Five months after taking the helm of the troubled mass market giant, Nugent has plans to unveil the first new Revlon fixture in 10 years and step up product launches in the sleepy skin care business. His objective: to restore Revlon’s standing as an innovator in the $3.6 billion mass beauty business.
However, before Revlon gets there, its share of the market could As reported, Revlon recently slipped from its spot as market leader to third place behind Maybelline and Procter & Gamble’s Cover Girl.
To put Revlon back on top, Nugent has put together a new management team. He believes this will lift morale and spark product innovation.
“Innovation comes from people, not computers,” said Nugent in an interview before the National Association of Chain Drug Stores annual meeting. The convention kicks off on Sunday at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.
As reported, Cheryl Vitali has been promoted to executive vice president and general manager of the global Revlon brand equity group. Tanya Mandor, who had held the position, has resigned. Vitali was vice president and general manger of global skin care.
Nugent said that until a successor was found for Vitali, he and an existing team will handle initiatives in skin care.
Nugent has organized the company into four operating groups — the Revlon group under Vitali; the hair care group, headed by Steven G. Perelman; the skin care group, and the Almay, Ultima and special development group, lead by Sharon K. LeVan.
Also joining Revlon’s payroll is a new celebrity — Lucy Liu of “Ally McBeal” fame. In addition to her role on the TV sitcom, she will star in the upcoming movie based on the television series “Charlie’s Angels.”
Retailers who will be meeting with Revlon executives during NACDS are anxious to hear of the firm’s plans to rebuild Revlon, a brand many consider the jewel of chain drugstore beauty retailing.
At the meeting last year, Revlon’s financial woes forced its chairman, Ronald O. Perelman, to put the brand on the block. Instead of unloading the entire company, divisions were sold and the proceeds used to reduce long-term debt, according to Nugent. “Last year at this time, the company was up for sale,” said Alan Levin, chairman of Happy Harry’s Inc. in Newark, Del., and the current NACDS chairman. “Now it is a whole different story and we’re interested to see what they have to say.”
In 1999, retailers were hurt in the first quarter by a lack of displays to accommodate Revlon’s new products. “This year we have the fixtures, so we’re already a step ahead,” pointed out one supermarket executive.
A major development at Revlon is the introduction of a new fixture system called Max. Although Revlon’s look has been updated over the years, there has not been a new fixture for a decade. During that time, rivals such as L’Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl created new shelving systems. And many retailers are installing their own universal fixtures. “This [initiative] represents Revlon’s answer to universal fixtures,” said one top drug chain executive. “It does for Revlon what some of the chains are trying to do on their own.”
That means delivering an easier-to-shop and better in-stock presentation. The new fixture has eliminated hard-to-set pegs in favor of modular units that snap on and off a support structure. “We wanted to solve some of the problems of the store environment,” said Vitali. “There is a ‘disconnect’ between images shoppers see in advertisements and what they see when they get to the store. Current departments are difficult to shop.” The new fixture has much less plastic and allows the product to be the “hero,” she added.
According to Paola Pistello, senior vice president for creative services, the design adopts a library format, with products grouped by category — face, lip, nail and eye items are merchandised separately. There are 1-foot, 3-foot and 4-foot increments that lock together. Revlon executives hope the format will help shoppers quickly find what they want on the wall.
“Often a customer comes in for a new product and can’t find it on the wall,” said Vitali. “We think this will make it easier and bring people to the wall.”
Revlon executives said the new display should require one-fourth the time to set up as existing fixtures. That represents a major labor savings for retailers. There’s also ample space for educational literature, salable samples and interactive touch-screen computers on the display.
Within the next two months, Revlon will test Max with a drugstore and a mass market retailer. Vitali would not divulge the names of the chains.
If successful, the systems will be rolled out, and there are plans to put 5,000 in place by the end of 2001. Similar new fixtures will eventually be introduced for Almay and Ultima.
In the meantime, about 10,000 doors are receiving “dress-up” kits to use with existing fixtures. “We think that being in stock, bringing impulse to the wall and adding efficiency will lift sales,” added Vitali.
With its new look on the way, Revlon is gearing up for new launches. However, Nugent recognized the company’s market share could further decline, especially as Revlon corrects bloated inventories. He said Revlon had been “very cognizant” of the inventory situation and noted that most inventories were closer to where the company wanted them. “I don’t know where exactly [the market share] could go. We are committed to financial health and we know we will have to garner market — we’re using that as a key measure. But we want to gain share in a creative way,” he said.
Nugent added that “innovation laboratories” had been set up in the U.S., Paris and Tokyo to help breed new ideas.
Already a few new Revlon items are warming retailers to the brand. Buyers said Sun Sparks, the current color promotion, has been a hit and that Lip Shine was starting to pick up.
AC Nielsen research revealed that seven Sun Sparks items placed in the top 50 in the U.S. mass color cosmetics category for the first quarter of 2000. Revlon’s eye shadow volume grew 32.7 percent and mascara expanded by 40.5 percent, compared with the same period in 1999. The trade is anxiously awaiting Revlon’s skin care moves, which will include the launch of a new brand.
Nugent said he was “looking at a return to fragrances.” And he believes there is an opportunity to take Ultima to more doors without tarnishing the line’s upscale positioning. “Revlon has a tremendous reputation for innovation,” said Nugent. “Stay tuned. We have some really big things planned for 2001.”