SCOTT: A RETAILER REMEMBERED
Byline: Kerry Diamond
NEW YORK — Jane Scott, one of the most influential retailers in the beauty industry, died Wednesday from a head injury sustained during a bicycling accident on the Fourth of July. Scott, who was the vice president and divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s, was 51.
The sad news quickly swept through the industry as Scott was well-liked by so many in the beauty business, from the scrappy start-up brands to her competitors around town to the leaders of the top global companies.
“She truly had enthusiasm, passion and love for the business,” said Michael Gould, chief executive officer and chairman of Bloomingdale’s. “Her impact on Bloomingdale’s was enormous. I lost a friend and a partner.”
According to the police report, Scott was riding her bicycle in Central Park on Tuesday afternoon when she swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian and fell to the ground, hitting her head on the curb. Scott, who was not wearing a helmet, was taken to New York Hospital, where she died Wednesday night.
“We’ll miss her terribly, both as a person and professionally,” said William Lauder, president of Clinique. “We enjoyed working with Jane immensely. She understood the cosmetics business very well. She was a creative merchant who was always trying to find ways to offer her consumers a varied and unique choice of merchandise.”
“I am shocked and saddened,” said Dan Brestle, president of Estee Lauder USA & Canada. “What I remember most about her was her incredible creativity and passion,” he recalled, adding that another facet of her personality was a somewhat endearing inability to be punctual. “Jane was always late. For her, a 9 a.m. meeting started at 9:45.”
But his overriding memory of her involved passion. “We need people like her, who are so dedicated to the business. She was a pro and it is a great loss.”
“She was an extraordinary person and a great friend to us,” said Luc Nadeau, senior vice president and general manager of Lancome USA. “She was never afraid to take chances on new products and concepts.”
Scott’s retail career began in 1971 with Bloomingdale’s executive training squad. A graduate of Rosemont College in Bryn Mawr, Penn., she handled various merchandising assignments before being named as branch coordinator for home furnishings at the Bloomingdale’s in Jenkintown, Penn.
Robin Burns, president and chief executive officer of Intimate Beauty Corp. and its Victoria’s Secret Beauty division, has some of the oldest and fondest memories of Scott. The two started out together 25 years ago when Scott was in the Jenkintown home store and Burns was an assistant buyer and trainee in New York.
Scott will be remembered forever for often coming to the aid of the befuddled trainee. “I will always remember her for her kindness,” Burns said. “She was the first person to extend a kindness with the attitude of ‘how can I help you?’ It is a huge loss.”
In 1980, Scott was named buyer of the silver department and was later promoted to stationery buyer. In 1983, she joined the May Co., but returned to Bloomingdale’s later that year as furniture upholstery buyer. She left Bloomingdale’s again in 1985, this time to work at Saks Fifth Avenue, where she got her first taste of the beauty business.
“Jane was a divisional vice president for the gift division when I gave her added responsibility for men’s and women’s fragrances and cosmetics accessories,” recalled Margaret Hayes, president of Fashion Group International who at the time was a senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Saks. “She just absorbed everything. Because of her wonderful interpersonal skills, she made friends and was a great leader. She was very aggressive about building the business, but she took the time to listen and was sensitive to other people’s points of view.”
Bloomingdale’s “stole her back,” as Hayes put it, in 1992 and named her vice president and divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics. “I met Jane when I was at Giorgio Beverly Hills and she drove me nuts,” remembered Gould. “I said if I ever worked in retail again, I would hire Jane.”
One of Scott’s biggest accomplishments at Bloomingdale’s was the renovation and expansion of beauty department at the 59th Street flagship in New York. “The floor was her dream,” said Gould. “Jane was passionately involved in every aspect of the renovation.”
Unveiled in fall 1998, the department’s makeover featured a distinct counter for each brand, an open-sell fragrance area and a new section devoted to independent brands called the Off B’Way.
“She really kept Bloomingdale’s on the cutting edge,” said Annette Green, president of the Fragrance Foundation.
Scott was passionate about keeping the customers excited, as she revealed earlier this year as a panelist during the WWD CEO Beauty Summit. “The customer is extremely savvy and it is necessary to constantly win their imagination,” she said. “I think we have to experiment and I think we have to inspire.”
With the Off B’Way area, which predated Sephora’s arrival in the U.S., Scott was one of the first major retailers to shine a spotlight on the indie segment. In the past, the indie brands were accorded secondary status by department stores and frequently shoved in a corner.
“She had a lot of vision and helped shepherd us through that department store world,” said Chris Gable, Demeter’s co-founder. “Demeter and many small companies owe a lot to her.”
“Jane touched so many people and I was fortunate to be among them,” said Cristina Bornstein, founder of Tony & Tina. “She made people feel special and valued and this is a rare gift. The way she spoke about her life, her friends, her husband was with solid love.”
Kristen Penta, formerly of Fun Cosmetics, said Scott “knew the business, knew what customers wanted and taught that to her buyers. She built a really strong team of intelligent, creative people who looked to her for direction. With a sense of reverence, they would often say, ‘Jane thinks it should be done this way.”‘
Scott’s interest in the future of the industry even filtered down to the student level. Green said that Scott served on the Fashion Institute of Technology’s action council for the fragrance and cosmetics curriculum. “She always volunteered to be on different committees,” recalled Green. “She was very supportive. She was a lovely person.”
Gould said that ultimately, Scott will be remembered as a nurturer of people and brands. “No one remembers the numbers or the great Christmas or whether you had a great ‘g’ [gift-with-purchase] or a lousy ‘g’,” he said. “They remember the impact on other people. Jane leaves a legacy of people — people who worked for her, people that she was a mentor to.”
One of those people is Richard Dickson, vice president of merchandising at Gloss.com who was a buyer under Scott.
“There has been no other person in my career that has had the kind of influence that Jane Scott has had on my life,” he said. “My Bloomingdale’s days were all about working for Jane Scott. She defined passion for me, she pushed me harder than anyone ever did and applauded the loudest at my slightest success.
“My feelings are probably no different than anyone else who worked for Jane. In fact she regarded those who worked for her as her kids and we regarded her as our mother.”
Scott is survived by her husband, Steve Dembo; her parents, Lillian and Andrew Costarino; and her sisters, Sissy Latino, Suellen Costarino and Dr. Drew Costarino.
Funeral services will be held at St. Monica’s Church, 413 E. 79th Street, New York, on Monday at 10 a.m.