Beauty Roundup: March 13, 2009

Most retailers and industry observers were caught by surprise with the announcement that Susan Arnold was to retire from Procter & Gamble.

Susan Arnold

Susan Arnold

Photo By Courtesy Photo

What Susan Arnold Meant To P&G

Although the press materials stated Susan Arnold planned to retire as president of global business units at Procter & Gamble Co. upon her 55th birthday (celebrated on March 8), most retailers and industry observers were caught by surprise with the announcement that hit the e-waves Monday.

Arnold has truly been an executive making an impact on the mass market. Under her watch, Procter & Gamble enhanced its beauty presence with sales in the category nearly tripling from about $7 billion in 1999 to $20 billion today. With the accent on beauty, P&G was no longer thought of as just household products, but as a beauty power to lock horns with L’Oréal.

Many retailers were pleased to see a woman running a beauty company and truly understanding women’s needs. Arnold was also heralded with bringing forth spokeswoman such as Ellen DeGeneres who aren’t the typical spokesmodel types.

What retailers note the most is that she is one of a handful of top mass executives who actually took the time to meet and greet many executives — even at the buyer level. Arnold made herself visible by tackling a speech at a WWD Summit a few years ago when she discussed how being a woman helped her devise new products and product positioning.

An impressive fact about Arnold is that retailers contacted about her imprint on the industry said they had actually met her. When other top execs depart or retire, many senior level chain executives only know the person by name. Many have dined with Arnold at industry events or had personal chain visits.

Most industry observers expect Arnold won’t truly retire, yet. Several think she has knowledge important to help other companies, even if on a consulting basis. Arnold’s position will not be filled and her departure reduces the names tossed about for a possible successor to A.G. Lafley, P&G chairman and chief executive officer, when he retires. P&G has not unveiled a succession time line, but many industry watchers and analysts have speculated Lafley plans to retire by 65 — within three and a half years. According to a P&G spokeswoman, the company does not have a mandatory retirement age, but “senior executives with enterprise-wide responsibilities” are expected not to stay on the job beyond 65 unless given the board’s approval.

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