As P&G merger nears, Coty makes its move

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Coty needed to pull something big out of its hat.

Concern over the direction of the soon-to-be-No. 3 company on the cosmetics leader board was murmured at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting last month. What’s more, both Coty and the Procter & Gamble consumer beauty lines it is acquiring have lost footing as the transaction edges toward closure in the second half of the year.

Such declines are not unusual when companies have to focus on the acquisition itself. But Coty and P&G’s losses come at a crucial time, when more nimble, smaller beauty brands and retailer-owned brands are gaining traction. Some merchants complained that Coty wasn’t in tune with retailers’ needs and expressed hope that would change.


Shannon Curtin

Then, in one fell swoop, Coty silenced those concerns by announcing that retail industry veteran Shannon Curtin will join the company as the senior vice president for North America, Coty Consumer Beauty, after the completion of the merger with P&G Specialty Beauty, expected in the second half of this year. In the interim, Curtin, who previously served as group vice president of beauty and personal care at Walgreen Co., will be U.S. general manager.

Curtin plans to leverage her background as Coty builds a new beauty powerhouse with the integration of 41 brands from P&G. Following the completion of the merger, Curtin will report to Esi Eggleston Bracey, tabbed as the president of Coty Consumer Beauty. Both will be based in the company’s New York office.

“I hope I can anticipate retailers’ needs,” Curtin said after the announcement of her new ­position.

Eggleston Bracey, who is also highly regarded in the trade for her keen knowledge of consumer trends, agreed that Curtin is a good fit. Curtin has more than 15 years of experience in mass retailing, most recently at Walgreens but before that at Walmart. Her roots in beauty stretch all the way back to when she worked at a fragrance counter at her local department store in her native Arkansas.

During her career at Walgreens, Curtin provided leadership for the drug chain’s network of 26,000 beauty advisers in the field and held financial responsibility for more than $5 billion in revenue at the 8,200-store retailer. She instituted a new beauty adviser program and helped Walgreens dig deeper into private label with the Circa and Colour Prevails brands. In the process, Curtin garnered many industry awards, including Crain’s “40 Under 40.”

Will her retail experience translate to the other side of the beauty business? Her peers seem to think so. While glad they don’t have to compete against her anymore, several said they welcome the fact that she understands the retail landscape.

Coty will divide its new businesses into three sectors. Curtin will be responsible for the Coty Consumer Beauty piece, which will include mass brands such as CoverGirl, Rimmel, Bourjois, NYC New York Color, Sally Hansen and hair care, which is new to Coty. The other divisions are Coty Luxury and Coty Professional. Those will fall under the jurisdiction of other executives and be run from other locales.

The vision of the new Coty, executives said, is to approach the mass business as a “portfolio,” to ensure that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

All eyes will be on Curtin’s ability to get Coty’s consumer beauty brands back on track. Curtin said her last eight months as a consultant have broadened her skill set. She acknowledged the new Coty must be “flawless” and bring innovation, and she expressed enthusiasm about the pipeline of items the company has ready to release.


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