DUTY-FREE UPDATE: LVMH confirmed this week that Myron Ullman will stay on as head of the DFS Group.
An LVMH spokeswoman also sought to calm the fears of some vendors who sell at duty-free giant DFS and expressed concern that the retailer would now be owned by a competitor. She said the only change at DFS will be that Louis Vuitton will now be sold at DFS, which didn't stock the line before.
In addition, an arbitration agreement drafted to allow LVMH's purchase of DFS is now the subject of a state court action in New York by Robert W. Miller, the sole minority shareholder of DFS, who is seeking to void the sale. A hearing is scheduled for Monday.
For its part, LVMH closed on the deal Dec. 17 and has maintained that the purchase is "legal and final."
AGON FOR ASIA: Jean-Paul Agon, who had been managing director of L'Oreal's consumer products and salon divisions in Germany, has been named managing director for Asia, a new post. He will be based at L'Oreal's Paris headquarters and report directly to chairman Lindsay Owen-Jones.
Agon, 40, will be responsible for coordinating the activities of L'Oreal's four divisions in Asia, except in Japan. Insiders at the company see his appointment as a signal of how important Asia is becoming to the firm.
TOP CONDITION: L'Oreal's Jacques Dessange hair brand is trying to sell French women on conditioners by introducing a new treatment product called Re-Structure and a reformulated range that combines vitamin E and silicone-derived polymers.
Julia Fedou, managing director of Lascad, the L'Oreal division that markets Dessange, said that only 18 percent of French women use conditioners, compared with 80 percent of American women.
Re-Structure, which executives say repairs and hydrates hair, hits shelves in France in April and will retail for $5.40 (30 francs) for a 100-ml. bottle.
Last year, total French conditioner sales were $78 million (434 million francs), and Fedou said she expects Dessange's efforts to boost them some 10 percent in 1997. Dessange already has the second best-selling conditioner brand in France after L'Oreal's Elseve.
Last year Givaudan-Roure's sales fell 2 percent and that performance, together with industry analysts' belief that Roche would need to make a major pharmaceuticals acquisition to keep up with competitors, had pushed Roche shares up 22 percent since Jan 1. and fueled rumors that Givaudan-Roure was for sale.
But in announcing its acquisition of Tastemaker, a Cincinnati-based flavors company, Roche, in a statement, reemphasized the importance of Givaudan-Roure: "The acquisition is in line with Roche's longstanding goal of further strengthening its four core businesses -- pharmaceuticals, vitamins and fine chemicals, diagnostics and fragrances and flavors."
BATH TIME: Badedas, a bath line that has been sold in Europe for nearly 40 years, is making its way in the U.S. The brand's American distributor, The King & I, started shipping the products to select Marshall Field's doors in December, and now plans on rolling them out to the full Dayton's, Hudson's & Marshall Field's chains by May 1.
"There's a place in an upscale distribution for an attractive bath line," said Steve King, president of The King & I, stressing that the products' horse-chestnut extract produces relaxing and revitalizing effects.
The four Badedas lines -- Original Bath Gelee, Foaming Oil, Moisturising Creme and two varieties of soap -- range in price from $5 for a soap to $40 for a 30.4-oz. bath gel.
King said he anticipates the line, which is manufactured in England by Sara Lee, to have a retail volume here of around $6 million within a couple of years.
INCHING AHEAD: Thanks partly to a surge in consumption in the first quarter following crippling public-sector strikes around Christmas 1995, cosmetics sales in France inched up by 3 percent last year.
Total volume reached $5.52 billion (30.61 billion francs). Sales of department store and perfumery brands were flat at $1.56 billion (8.67 billion francs), while those of mass market brands rose 3 percent to $2.86 billion (15.89 billion francs), according to the Federation des Industries de la Parfumerie.
Pharmacy sales, sparked by the explosion of "parapharmacies," which offer nonmedicated products at a discount, were up by the highest percentage -- 9 percent -- reaching a volume of $566 million (3.14 billion francs).
A similar growth pace is expected to continue for the overall beauty business in France; the French bank Credit Lyonnais projected 3.5 percent gains in the cosmetics sector for 1997.
Meanwhile, French exports were up 6 percent to $568 million (31.5 billion francs), with European countries buying 62 percent of France's output.
While the French breathed a small sigh of relief, for German perfumery retailers, 1996 was a year of unfulfilled expectations.
After a small but promising 2 percent sales gain in the first half, weak Christmas business resulted in an overall growth of 1 percent for the year, according to the German Association of Perfumeries.
The Association noted relatively solid gains in women's fragrance sales last year, which in spite of widespread price reductions grew by 4.5 percent. Demand for treatment products dropped by about 6 percent, whereas new long-lasting products helped stimulate makeup sales by about 2 percent. Overall men's toiletries sales dropped by about 5 percent.