In Conversation with Terry Little, MD Estée Lauder Co

...on change, resilience, sustainability and mentoring

Effective leaders have to be a captain of the ship, not just someone with a hand on the helm. That means analysing and adapting plans to changing opportunities and challenges and supervising the activities of executives and staff at all levels for the good of all. Terry Little, Managing Director of The Estée Lauder Group of Companies ANZ for over 11 years, is widely recognised as a guiding force and mentor in the Australian beauty market and a keen supporter of industry issues as Vice Chair of Accord Australasia, the peak body representing companies operating in the cosmetics, fragrance, personal care and toiletries categories from startups to major multinationals.

Terry Little has worked in the beauty business in the UK and Australia for over 25 years and has a helicopter grasp of the industry. “In terms of overall view, the industry has changed enormously. Prestige beauty consumers now decide where they want to shop and how. If they are looking for the full-service experience, they go to department stores. Those who prefer a more playful environment head for speciality stores such as Sephora. One of the biggest changes has been the behaviour of younger consumers who get a lot of their information from YouTube these days because they want to look before they buy”.

Total Retail/ Department Store Resurgence

But Little has no truck with anyone who says that the department store is dead. “The redevelopment of David Jones Elizabeth Street in Sydney is on track to become the best department store in the Southern Hemisphere with 12 floors of retail. The flagship will offer first-rate retailtainment – theatre, experience and upmarket eating areas where people can enjoy themselves. The department store industry, like many others is cyclical, and these trends were popular years ago. They are being revived for new generations because these are things that people will always want”.
The partnership between Sephora and David Jones, which launched in Melbourne’s Bourke street store in November, is a great initiative, says Little. “New customers are drawn into David Jones stores and existing ones have a wider choice of brands. Although both department store chains have made great efforts with their online businesses, they still have a bit of work to do to reach global best practice standards. I don’t use the term omnichannel, I prefer the description total retail because customers sometimes want service and at other times prefer to buy online. I am a major fan of click- and-collect because it gets more customers into stores and they frequently buy something else, in addition to the goods they are picking up”.

Prestige Performance from Fragrances to Skincare

Australia is following overseas trends when it comes to the surging popularity of prestige cosmetics, says Little. “The sector is growing faster each year and has overtaken mass to account for 50 per cent of the market. The Estée Lauder Companies’ stable continues to grow. La Mer has performed very well with the huge growth in luxury skincare. Prestige fragrances are another hotspot, not only Tom Ford and Jo Malone but also more recent acquisitions such as Le Labo and By Kilian”.
Clinique is also moving forward strongly, says Little. “We have just launched Clinique iD, a customised hydration system based on the best-selling Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. Customers can select from three Different Dramatically Different bases – jelly, lotion or oil-control gel – and combine the chosen formula with one of five active ingredient cartridge concentrates. In total, there are about 15 possible blends to suit different skincare concerns. It’s a game-changer”.
The reformulated Moisture Surge – 72-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator – has been a great success over the past year. The core Estee Lauder brand delivered net sales growth in every region and in most channels in the multinational’s recent global Q2 performance. “In Australia, the increases have come from existing product franchises such as Double Wear Foundation and Advanced Night Repair”, adds Little. “Our overall online business is performing well and the entry of M.A.C into Mecca has produced a solid uplift”.

Sustainability and Giving back Top of Mind

Raising the bar on sustainability has become a major goal for beauty and personal care companies. Estée Lauder publishes an annual report called The Beauty of Responsibility and achieved a number 5 ranking for the beauty and personal care industry in Barron’s second annual sustainability report released in February this year. Lauder-owned Aveda, for example, became the first beauty company in the world to receive a Cradle to Cradle (C2C) sustainability endorsement and has achieved a list of sustainability firsts dating back 30 years.
The Estée Lauder Companies are committed to building a more sustainable world for our employees, consumers and communities and ethical sourcing is at the forefront of our policies, says Little. “We have a long history of corporate citizenship and publish our worldwide guidelines on our global website. But we have really ramped up our activities and strategies in recent years and are industry leaders”.
Mrs Evelyn Lauder, the late wife of Chairman Emeritus, Leonard Lauder, founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in 1992, a non-profit organisation that funds breast cancer research and awareness worldwide. To date, the BCRF has raised US$285 million for translational research and awareness. “In Australia, The Estée Lauder Companies are proud to be a platinum partner of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. We also sell National Breast Cancer Foundation Pink Ribbon merchandise at our retail counters throughout October and over 110 million Pink Ribbons have been distributed globally. We strongly support the Look Good Feel Better organisation as major corporate sponsors and I am on the board of directors. The Aveda Walk for Water campaign has also been a major success in giving back”.

Globally-Rated Employer/ Reaching for Regulatory Convergence

With over 46,000 employees worldwide, the Estée Lauder Companies are just as committed to looking after their own. The multinational has been ranked on such performance-based lists as – the Best Employers for Diversity 2019, the World’s Best Employers 2018, the Best Employers for New Grads 2018 and Best Employers for Women 2018. For the second year in a row, the Estée Lauder Companies were rated on Indeed’s Top-Rated Workplaces: The 50 Best list at number 16 – up 20 places from 2017.
Estée Lauder has introduced a wide variety of employee benefits, support options, learning opportunities and family-related programs to become of the beauty industry’s best places to work, says Little. “We offer great flexibility options to employees. One of our most successful programs is reverse mentoring. Each generation can learn new things from each other. I have a Millennial mentor who has really brought me up to speed on all things digital, for example. The process is also valuable for getting past clichés. Many Millennials are more conservative and focused than older generations think. We also encourage employees to volunteer, achieve work/life balance and offer free skin checks”.
As the Vice Chair of Accord Australasia, Little is also deeply involved in wider industry and regulatory issues. “One of my major projects is to ally Australia with Global Regulatory Convergence. One of the biggest hurdles in our industry is bureaucracy and regulation. Companies cannot offer many products which are widely available in the US and Europe because of local regulations. New Zealand accepts global standards on products and it’s time Australia followed suit”.

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