NEW YORK — A seismic generational shift shook the department store beauty business Thursday, as two icons of the manufacturing and retailing worlds — Jack Wiswall of L’Oréal USA and Dale Cameron of Nordstrom — separately signalled plans to retire, capping two storied careers.
Both announcements are expected to be made today, WWD learned. It is perhaps fitting that the news of the milestone retirements should break on the same day, since the career paths of the executives have crisscrossed through the decades. On Thursday, Cameron recalled that her first appointment as a cosmetics buyer back in the Seventies was with Wiswall, who at the time was a vice president at Estée Lauder’s Clinique division. “He was giving the new kid — me — a hard time about his space and location,” she said with a chuckle. “But I hung tough.”
Wiswall, a 45-year veteran of the cosmetics industry, joined L’Oréal — then called Cosmair — in 1991 as vice president of sales for Ralph Lauren Fragrances and was named to his current role as president of the Designer Fragrance Division of L’Oréal USA in December 2000.
Wiswall will retire by the end of this year. He will be succeeded in July by Serge Jureidini, currently the general manager of the company’s Giorgio Armani Beauty business in the U.S. Jureidini joined L’Oréal’s Travel Retail Division in 1992, and worked in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong before being named to his current post in 2000. Jureidini will report to Edgar Huber, president of L’Oréal’s Luxury Products Division. He has been reporting to Wiswall.
“I had a brilliant run — 20 great years at Estée Lauder, 15 great years here and an entrepreneurial thing in between at Adrian Arpel,” Wiswall said.
When asked about his happiest memories, Wiswall said he feels gratified to have had a cosmetics experience with Clinique and Giorgio Armani and the opportunity to work with Ralph Lauren and Paloma Picasso. “I was fortunate to be able to touch all of them,” he said, noting that his proudest achievement was in pushing Armani’s Acqua di Gio for Men to number one.
Indeed, his boss, Huber, credited Wiswall with doubling sales in the fragrance division. “Under Jack’s leadership, our Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani franchises have become the top designer fragrance brands in the beauty industry,” he added.
Several retailers noted they will be sorry to see Wiswall depart. “Jack has driven some of the biggest and most successful launches in the industry,” said Howard Kreitzman, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances at Bloomingdale’s, “and made an enormous contribution to the fragrance business.”
“Jack Wiswall is an icon in the fragrance industry,” said Micheline Jordaan, vice president and dmm of fragrances at Macy’s East. “Macy’s has established a terrific partnership with Jack over the years. There are a few things you can count on when dealing with [him]. One, that he will always challenge you to deliver more; two, that he will pursue out-of-the-box ideas, and three, you can count on his sense of humor. I wish him the best of luck. He will be missed.”
“Jack is one of the most dynamic, passionate and caring leaders in our industry,” said Deborah Walters, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for cosmetics, fragrance and intimate apparel for Saks. “[He is] a master at brand positioning and one who recognizes and respects the individual nuances of the retailer. Most importantly, he has been courageous in supporting unique strategies.”
Cameron, executive vice president and corporate merchandise manager of cosmetics for Nordstrom, is a 35-year veteran of the retailer. She began her career in 1970 as a sales associate at the chain’s Bellevue Square location in Washington state. She served as the retailer’s fashion jewelry buyer from 1971 to 1976, and in 1976 was named a cosmetics buyer for Nordstrom. Cameron’s retirement is effective in March. She will be succeeded by Laurie Black, currently president of Nordstrom’s Rack division.
“Dale started in the Seventies with my father and my uncles,” said Pete Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom’s full-line stores, during an exclusive phone interview Thursday afternoon. “When she began, beauty was a small part of our business. Dale took the ball and ran with it, and grew beauty in a very meaningful way. She has had sales increases every single year that she has been at Nordstrom, and she has set the bar extremely high. She is a key player, and we’re sad to have her leave — she has always led by example. But she has put a culture into place which will ensure a seamless transition, and she deserves to go out exactly as she wants.”
“I wanted to make some changes — and to devote more time to traveling and to play,” said Cameron, who will continue to consult for Nordstrom after passing the reins to Black in March. “I’ve worked with an incredible group of people, and I will miss them — but everything is in place. The people in my department have worked with me for a long time, and I have complete confidence in our leadership. We’re well programmed and the culture of our division will continue — we are very passionate and very competitive. And I’ll be as close as my BlackBerry.”
Leonard Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos., noted, “I worked with Dale for many years. She has been the historic champion of new brands, new ideas and new trends. She will go down in history as being one of the great leaders in retailing. We will all miss her.”
“Dale has been one of the true passionate, visionary merchants in the prestige cosmetics arena,” added William Lauder, president and chief executive officer of Lauder. “Her legacy for the establishment of the leadership of Nordstrom’s cosmetics business and for the numerous contributions she’s made to our industry will be remembered for many years to come.”
During her tenure at Nordstrom, Cameron has been the driving force behind many of the retailer’s beauty initiatives — including being one of the first prestige retailers to offer an open-sell layout for beauty, in June 1995. She was also one of the first major retailers to carry MAC Cosmetics as well as cosmeceutical lines such as Dr. Perricone. Cameron also developed the Spa Nordstrom concept, backing the opening of 13 company-owned spas, and supported the launch of Nordstrom’s Beauty Hotline — intended to serve customers via an 800-number and Web site — in 2001.
“I have always been empowered to build a business here at Nordstrom,” said Cameron. “And with everything that we’ve done, our first consideration has always been about the customer’s experience in our stores. Take open-sell, for instance. If a customer has to ask to see something behind the glass, it is intimidating. Open-sell gives her the chance to get the product’s price and buy it quickly. And if she wants more information, there is always a sales associate nearby.”
“Dale Cameron is an incredible leader with an entrepreneurial spirit; her departure is a definite loss to the industry,” said Don Loftus, president and chief executive officer of P&G Prestige Products. “She has always faced the business with fresh perspectives and ideas, but her ability to build strong and capable teams will undoubtedly be the hallmark of her legacy.”
“I’ve known Dale professionally for more than 18 years, back from my early days at Borghese,” said John Demsey, global president of the MAC Cosmetics and Estée Lauder brands. “She truly has been, from a brand development standpoint, one of the visionaries of the landscape that includes everything successful today. She was one of the first to recognize the importance of makeup artist brands, as well as the importance of dermatological skin care brands and spa services in stores. She is a true merchant and a brand builder, and her not being a part of the day-to-day workings of Nordstrom is a real loss to the industry.”
Indeed, said Demsey, Cameron was “one of the chief architects of the success of MAC.
“She introduced the line in a six-foot case in Tacoma [Wash.],” said Demsey, “and built it door by door. She comes from a time when the store helped define a brand as much as the brand itself did. She will be missed.”
Of Black, Nordstrom noted, “She’s had great results in all of her roles here, and she has one of the biggest capacities for work and energy that I’ve ever seen. She has earned this opportunity.” Black once worked for Cameron, he said.
Cameron added, “She’s an incredible merchant and she has done an incredible job with the Rack.” Then she paid her successor one of the highest possible compliments.
“She’s made of the same stuff as me,” Cameron said with a laugh.
— With contributions from Matthew W. Evans