Ralph Lauren Losing Battle for Preppies in America


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The Olympic outfits were on full display during the opening ceremonies in Rio last week, but that does not mean Ralph Lauren’s superiority is not facing problems.

The red, white and blue opening ceremony outfits worn by the U.S. when they walked into Maracana Stadium were nothing short of classic prep with huge Polo labels for the whole world to see.

Ralph Lauren has built a multibillion-dollar empire and brand by becoming a deeply rooted American label. However, while the power of being prep continues, the brand lately has ceded some ground to newer competition that has put twists into the old prep look. Thus far, Ralph Lauren has failed in coping with those changes.

Now the clothing maker is attempting to pull itself up from a current rough period. Sales fell 11% in North America during its most recently ended quarter. In June, during a presentation to analysts, CEO Stefan Larsson, who was hired away from Old Navy last year, outlined his plans for turning the company around.

He vowed Ralph Lauren would return to its roots by refocusing on its core items while slashing costs by up to $180 million.

Lauren, who is still the lead designer, conceded that the company’s management made some mistakes, as over the last three years, it has lost almost half its overall market value.

The fashion icon, who is 76, made it clear he was not happy about losing that much market value.

Preppiness, which is the stated uniform of wealth and class, was ruled for many years by a few old fashioned brand names. The look was defined by Ralph Lauren and the Brooks Brothers, while Lacoste brought it some sensibilities from Europe.

Although the preppy look may be long lasting for some, they eventually have come to realize the same old brands are not needed as some amount of staleness sets in.

Fashion upstarts start to gain ground as shoppers search for new alternatives. Smathers & Branson for example has won a niche in the prep market with its needlepoint belts and Southern Tide grew rapidly once it came onto the scene a decade ago and sold for over $85 million in early 2016.

Larsson is aware Ralph Lauren must regain relevance and said that by the spring of 2017 shoppers will be seeing the first results of the effort he is putting in to rework the proven and successful styles of the brand.

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