A Quick Review
The goodbyes to my in-laws went smoothly, and my old Pontiac and I made it to San Francisco without incident. My new boss, Dick Schock, a six foot four giant, met me at the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco on Monday morning to start my first day on my new job. In the meantime I had found an apartment out on what's called the “Avenues,” close to downtown, and was ready to go.
I had already heard from Dick's boss, Herm Schnitz, that he was sure the two of us would get along well. After a two hour meeting at the hotel that day, I wasn't so sure, but I will continue the story there next week. My foray into the world of selling cosmetics begins with the drugstores of San Francisco, all 220 of them.
The past eight months went by like a bullet train passing in the night. In other words fast! So,to my faithful followers I apologize for my absence, but now I am fully recovered and strong again which includes the clarity of my memory.
San Francisco in 1965 still enjoyed the splendor of the City of Paris, an elegant high fashion department store in the downtown area. Gradually a few years later these types of stores became dinosaurs around the country and were eventually closed because the young people did not frequent them and they died. My beat was to service around 220 independent drug stores on both sides of the bay bridge out to San Jose on one side, and Fremont on the other.
The independent druggist in metropolitan San Francisco included a large majority of 1st and 2nd generation Chinese. This city's Chinatown was world famous by then and my business calls to these outlets were always full of memorable stories. My job was however, to sell them my wares so that I would look good in the eyes of my new employer.
This was going to be harder than I realized because my boss, Dick Schock, had been the salesman a short time before me, and he had managed to keep them all reasonably well overstocked. Dick and I spent the better part of a week making sales calls together, and it became abundantly clear quickly that he was so well liked that they would buy anything he recommended. I knew I had my work cut out for me, especially being his replacement.
In those days there were more cosmetic manufacturers vying for counter and shelf space than most stores had room for proper presentation. A sales call was divided into several parts. The cosmetician taking inventory of their stock, reviewing and writing a regular order (existing basics items, we had an 8 page order form in fine print), selling the new items, usually about 4-6 new prepacks equaling 3-4 hundred dollars and then checking the aged and returned merchandise and writing up an authorized return which had accumulated since the last sales call. Probably 1.5 to 2 hours for each call.
Revlon and Max Factor dominated the sales counters in most instances, and it was the salesman's job to make sure our things didn't get buried by the Revlon people. The Dorothy Gray, Elizabeth Arden, Coty, Clairol, and perfume salespeople were not a aggressive as we two were. The real truth of the matter was that by the end of my first week I had figured out that the drug stores had more cosmetics hidden in drawers, the backroom, and the front sales area to sink a ship. More than they could or would ever sell in a lifetime, but they always bought more and more.
So, my job was to keep selling the new promotions to keep the advertised items, lipstick, make-up, false eye-lashes, mascara and colognes and perfume front and center for the consumer. Our pitch was that we did not sell any of these to the grocery stores which saw their customer 50 times a year, and so the consumer would make extra trips to their stores besides coming in to pick up their RX's as needed. Most of my independents bought the idea!
My first week on my own was hard but successful. We were supposed to write 20 regular orders of basic merchandise, and sell the new items 60-70% with those twenty orders. There never was enough space for the store to display the new promotions for Max Factor muchless the Revlon and the others. So, it was always a hard sale.
Calling your boss on Friday night was part of the routine for new salesmen, and I was eager to report my successes. Dick was surprised that I wrote my 20 orders, and he let me off the hook for more phone reports. We had to make a written sales report day-by-day and he would get a copy of that. After several months I had been given tasks in other territories outside of mine since I was caught up and before I knew it, I was promoted to a larger territory in Fresno.
It didn't sound like a promotion to me but I got a raise and a pat on the back. Fresno turned out to have bigger and more successful independents; and, there were large chain drugstores like Long's and Payless. In less than a year I doubled the sales volume, and was promoted back to San Francisco to take over the department store accounts. Now I had 33 stores to worry about, advertising, special promotions, etc. Anyway I excelled at that and was promoted to first-level manager or District Manager.
Then I had to move back to Los Angeles to headquarters. In less than a year my responsibilities were increased, and I had 18 people reporting to me. They had added a training function to my duties which meant I conducted 2 week training classes for all of the new salesmen nationally about 6-7 times a year. In all I worked for Max Factor from 1965 to 1973 and left when the company was sold to Norton Simon and I was no longer the fair-haired boy.
Next week I will cover my experiences at Shiseido, the largest cosmetic company in the world, and still is, and my brief time with Christian Dior/Chanel before starting my own manufacturers rep agency.