When Debra Perelman took over as Revlon’s first woman CEO in its 89-year history in 2018, the global beauty company was already facing big challenges.
Her billionaire father Ron Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes Inc. has backed the publicly traded company. The company also owns iconic brands such as Almay and Elizabeth Arden. This includes a high debt load, changing consumer preferences, and intense competition, especially from Kylie Jenner’s celebrity launches.
Revlon’s troubles only grew with the pandemic. This harmed lipstick sales as people covered up. In 2020, sales fell 21% to $1.9billion. By persuading sufficient bondholders to extend the maturing debt, the company avoided bankruptcy in late 2018.
This is a significant change from Revlon’s position as the second-largest cosmetics company in terms of sales during the 20th century. Avon was Avon’s only competitor. According to WWD, Revlon is now ranked 22. Revlon shares are now trading at $11 compared to the $80 they traded 20 years ago.
Perelman (48), a self-described makeup junkie and optimistic about the future, said she is optimistic. Revlon’s makeup sales have been rebounding as more women venture out. However, she is closely monitoring the delta version. She has also used the health crisis to increase her online investments. Elizabeth Arden, for instance, launched virtual consultations during the pandemic.
The company has learned from Kylie’s celebrity launches to be more agile and is cutting down on the time it takes to develop new product launches. Perelman said Revlon is also gaining market share. The company saw its sales rise by nearly 18% to $942.4million in the first half. Its losses decreased to $163.7million from $340.7million the previous year.
Perelman also committed to sustainability and diversity. Her current leadership team includes more than half women. She has been inspired by the pandemic to give talks at the company on mental health. She co-founded Child Mind Institute in 1999, a national nonprofit that helps families and children with learning and mental disorders. Perelman is personally connected to this issue because her 17-year old daughter, who has anxiety disorders, was diagnosed as a child.
Perelman was interviewed by the Associated Press about her beauty routines during the pandemic, and how she managed to remain agile. Perelman’s responses were edited for clarity, length, and clarity.
Q. Q. Do you find it strange that Revlon has a female CEO for the first time in its long history?