NEW YORK — With a rejuvenated product line and a newly installed chief executive, Stila Cosmetics is aiming to take another run at the cosmetics world this fall.
Jane McKellar, Stila’s new ceo, is already up to her elbows in plans to revitalize the brand. Together with Stacy Panagakis, who has been the brand’s general manager under former owner the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. (Panagakis remains the brand’s general manager), McKellar outlined a bit of her strategy for putting the quirky indie brand back on top.
“The passion that users have for this brand is incredible,” said McKellar, vowing to renew the brand’s image in the marketplace.
On her path to helming Stila, McKellar has acquired a reputation for revitalizing prestigious brands. When she took over as managing director of Elizabeth Arden’s Australian business in 2004, she turned around its stagnant core brands and positioned three of the firm’s fragrance launches in Australia’s top 10. She also was said to have grown Arden’s business by more than 25 percent. Before joining Arden, she was director of marketing and sales for Microsoft Network Australia.
Under the new regime, Stila continues to be based in Los Angeles. While international operations previously were located out of a satellite office here, McKellar — who aims to explode the brand’s growth outside of the U.S. — is establishing satellite offices closer to the international markets, such as an office in Japan for Asia, and a European office. “The opportunities for Stila are great in a number of areas,” said McKellar. “Overseas, we have a small base where we’re seeing large growth — in Asia, for instance. We’ll expand there, and also expand into China.” The U.K. is another area McKellar hopes to grow. “We’re doing well in Selfridges and Space NK, but with a little nurture and focus, we can get even stronger there,” she said. “We also see duty free as an important focus. This is a global brand.”
The turnaround process will happen over the next two years, said McKellar. “I don’t think that a two-year turnaround is unrealistic,” she said. “First, we need to de-link Stila from Lauder, and transition and keep the business stable. But our commitment to this brand is absolute.”
As reported, the Estée Lauder Cos. sold the brand to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners dubbed Stila Corp. in mid-April. Lauder had acquired Stila from its founder, Jeanine Lobell, in the summer of 1999 for an estimated $25 million to $30 million. Lobell founded the brand in 1994, and has been testing it ever since on celebrity clients such as Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Diane Lane.
Lately, Lobell has not been closely involved with the brand, but McKellar is hoping to change that, noting that Lobell’s input and expertise speak to the brand’s DNA. “Jeanine has always been the visionary for Stila, and we would love for her to continue to be an ambassador for the brand,” said McKellar. “At the end of the day, it’s her decision, but the door is open.”
McKellar refused to comment on Stila’s current sales volume, although industry sources estimated that the brand is doing between $35 million and $40 million in retail sales in the U.S.
When Lauder acquired Stila, it was sold in 114 specialty store doors in the U.S. It is now in 283 U.S. doors, including three freestanding Stila stores, as well as at sephora.com, Gloss.com and 13 international markets. McKellar sees “unlimited potential” internationally as well as domestically. “We’re looking at unusual channel strategies,” said McKellar. While she declined to reveal all of them, she did note that the brand would be amping up its Internet presence, and would also do more work with QVC, a strategy the brand recently tested to “great results.” Also, a stronger Sephora presence as well as strengthened efforts at Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s and the Studio at Fred Segal are planned.
However, nonperforming doors have been slashed. “We’ve closed about 100 doors, and our sales have gone up,” McKellar said.
Now that she’s taken over Stila, McKellar isn’t planning to stop: “In the bigger picture, Stila will be a cornerstone for us as we build the company,” she said, noting that once Stila is set she plans to add more brands to the roster. “But we’re not going to rush out and buy a bunch of brands right away,” she cautioned. “We want to get Stila on track first.”
One step toward realizing that goal is a full lineup of fall products, noted McKellar. The fall 2006 color collection, Fall in Love, is based around products that “take their color cues from Mother Nature,” she said. Eye Shadow Trios, each $30, will be available in three colorways — Cedar Grove, comprised of soft brown shades; Forest Clove, a grouping of dramatic green shades, and Silver Maple, a compilation of silver hues. Each is packaged in a fake-leather compact.
Two cheek duos, each $30, are intended to produce the look of “those first few nips of fall,” noted Panagakis. There are also four new shades of Lip Glaze, each $20, and a new gold hue of Liquid All-Over Shimmer, $20.