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The Greatest Opportunity for Growth

By: Lisa Doyle
Posted: May 4, 2010, from the May 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

Donald Loftus, president and CEO of P&G Prestige Products, Inc.

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Loftus asserts that in order to successfully market a fragrance, it’s not only the corporate team that influences sales—it’s the staff on the floors in the department stores that can make a huge impact on a customer. “I have always thought that more attention needed to be given to the basics of selling fragrance,” he says. “Go to any counter on a busy Saturday and it quickly becomes evident that it takes real selling skills to sell a bottle of fragrance for $50 or $150. The difference in productivity between a fragrance department staffed by knowledgeable fragrance experts versus novice register ringers is hugely significant. Especially near to Christmas when time is of the essence, sales associates need to entice, sample and close the sale in a pressured environment.” In fact, Loftus feels so strongly about these fundamentals that, while serving as chairman of the board of The Fragrance Foundation, he proposed a sales course specifically for entry-level fragrances sales associates—one that came to fruition via The Fragrance Foundation’s “Fragrance 101” class in 2008.

He certainly has a clear appreciation for and understanding of retail—Loftus’ career began in the 1970s at The May Company and Halle’s, a specialty store in Cleveland that was owned by Marshall Fields. After working in ready-to-wear, men’s and children’s departments, Loftus became the cosmetics and fragrance buyer and then eventually vice president and divisional merchandise manager. After 12 years of retailing, he moved to Boston to become a field sales manager for Estée Lauder. Next, he moved to Yves Saint Laurent as vice president of sales and then onto to Sanofi Beauté, which was later to become YSL Beauté, where he was promoted to executive vice president and then president of its U.S. operations. In the coming years, he moved to president of Escada Beaute, which was then bought by Wella in 2002. Following the acquisition, he was appointed to Wella’s U.S. president for Cosmopolitan Cosmetics. The following year, Cosmopolitan was bought by P&G, leading Loftus to the role he continues to hold today.

He’s also recently received major kudos for his contributions to the fragrance industry: in October 2009, Loftus was honored with The Fragrance Foundation’s tenth annual Circle of Champions Award, the highest mark of distinction bestowed by the organization. “Without a doubt, everyone in our industry loves, respects and admires Don Loftus,” says Bloom. “His business savvy, not to mention his great sense of humor, has been honed through the path his career has taken from retail merchandiser to guiding the launch, expansion and growth of some of the biggest successes in the fragrance world.”

The Consumer is Boss

Key to these successes has been Loftus’ insistence of keeping the consumer’s actual wants, rather than perceptions of what the consumer should want, in mind. “At P&G, the consumer is boss; we take this to the next level with a deep category understanding; placing the consumer at the top, leading our business choices,” says Loftus. “In the U.S., we are fortunate because we have the NPD Group providing category retail sell-through data every week, and NPD can help chart consumer reaction to the market. Competition is good and healthy in that it keeps us all focused on the consumer for the best results for the category.”

With this in mind, P&G Prestige Products has recently added to the fragrance portfolios of some of its most noteworthy brands. Among them are Burberry Sport scents, in both men’s and women’s editions; the Grace Kelly-esque Flora by Gucci; Boss Orange by Hugo Boss; and the D&G fragrance Anthology, a wardrobe of five intriguing scents inspired by the game of Tarot and accompanied by a glam ad campaign featuring Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell. “Brand building is a core skill we develop through our portfolio of iconic brands; we believe in investing for growth and building classic brands consumers can trust for the long term—brands that become icons,” says Loftus. “This is delivered through continuous category innovation with the expansion of newer brands that serve unmet consumer needs in the prestige channel.”