NEW YORK — Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. is bulking up its executive ranks.
With an eye to execute future growth strategies with consistency and that certain Ralph touch, the company has elevated the roles of two key executives. Polo has promoted Charles Fagan to executive vice president and chief of staff to Ralph Lauren, and Alfredo Paredes to executive vice president and chief retail creative officer of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.
Fagan and Paredes are Polo veterans: The two men have each been with the company for 24 years and, in that time, worked closely with one another and directly with chairman and chief executive officer Ralph Lauren on multiple areas in the business. They remain among the handful of executives reporting directly to Lauren. Fagan previously also reported to Roger Farah, Polo’s president and chief operating officer.
Internally, the newly created roles are not just seen as a reward for Fagan’s and Paredes’ longevity and loyalty to Lauren, but also as strategic moves to further improve the company and strengthen consistency in its complex structure, which has multiple labels and store concepts. The appointments come at a time when Polo continues to increase its focus on freestanding retail with a fast-expanding network of stores opening around the world; has plans to make significant moves in markets such as Asia, particularly China, after it took back control of its wholesale and retail distribution in Southeast Asia from its licensee, Dickson Concepts International Ltd., in January, and aims to further expand stand-alone brands such as Double RL and Rugby.
“It is very important to me to make sure that we are communicating the concept of this company clearly, so that our distribution is right, so that the stores that we are selling to are right and that the attitude is,” Lauren told WWD.
Lauren said the promotions will further help him bring his vision across Polo’s various brands and borders with consistency, and were appropriate because the company “has grown dramatically” and continues to be “on a global mission.”
Most recently, Fagan was Polo’s executive vice president of Global Brand Development. In that role, he was in charge of overseeing the continuity between merchandising, advertising and marketing strategies at the retail level, both domestically and internationally, including licensed stores. Fagan is now being charged with communicating Lauren’s point of view across Polo’s businesses and brands, both in the U.S. and in foreign markets. His mandate is to support Lauren in creating a consistent branding direction and working with Polo’s international divisions to execute it.
“It’s a great expansion for Charles,” Lauren said. “He has already been doing this on some level, but will now continue to do it with the title that states what he really does. This is a very important job, because he is my right-hand person.”
Paredes, meanwhile, was most recently executive vice president of Global Creative Services, Polo Store Development and Home Collection Design Studio. He made his mark developing and implementing the firm’s lifestyle concept in stores and showrooms worldwide. He continues to be in charge of the creative direction that enhances the customer experience at retail, from store design to window displays. Polo’s Product Presentation group, once headed by Fagan, will now be overseen entirely by Paredes.
“Building stores is the goal of this company throughout the world,” Lauren said. “We sit down with Alfredo, and I say, ‘This is what I want, this is where we are going.’ We look for locations together.”
Lauren added that Paredes will also be key in ensuring the store experience remains consistent after the opening.
The company has weathered the recession better than most. For the three months ended Dec. 26, income rose to $111.1 million from $105.3 million in the year-ago quarter. Total revenues inched down 0.6 percent to $1.24 billion from $1.25 billion. Sales were essentially flat at $1.2 billion, with wholesale volume down 7.9 percent, to $603.5 million, and retail volume up 8.2 percent, to $592.1 million. Comparable-store sales, including sales at ralphlauren.com, rose 6 percent.
Retail is clearly a major focus for the company, which is in the process of an ongoing retail evolution that led from Tokyo’s Omotesando in 2006 to Moscow in 2007, 2008 openings on Avenue Montaigne in Paris and Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, and in the Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates, Greenwich, Conn., and Gstaad, Switzerland, last year. In mid-April, the company is opening the largest Polo store in Europe on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris. The flagship will offer almost every Polo brand over six floors, and also feature a restaurant.
This fall, Lauren is slated to open a flagship across from the Rhinelander mansion on Madison Avenue here to focus exclusively on women’s and home categories, inside a purpose-built Beaux-Arts mansion.
“Ralph’s vision, his tenacity and high standards have really been what’s behind the tremendous growth of the company,” Fagan said. “The complex nature now, because of our accelerated growth, means that there is so much to be done.”
Fagan added that he will work directly with Lauren to communicate his vision and expectations, and represent him in key areas of focus, such as the development of the business in Asia, the continued growth and development of retail concepts, the evolution of Lauren’s accessories business, and “various cross-divisional, cross-functional areas of the business.”
“I think I can help communicate his point of view, his approach and sensibility to a broad cross section of our culture to encourage continued collaboration, and facilitate decision making,” Fagan said. “The global growth and the understanding to how to do business in different cultures and maintain a consistency and a high standard are complicated.”
Paredes’ role will include the Product Presentation group and collaborating with merchants within the company to profile the stores appropriately, and position the merchandise and experience true to Lauren’s philosophy.
“I think it’s the most important piece of growing our business now because there are many opportunities to take advantage of all our stores and grow our business and that’s what I will be doing,” Paredes said.
He added that regional markets require special sensitivities, from decor to product selection, to maximize opportunities.
“Our job has always been the details,” Paredes said. “It’s a very details-oriented company and, as you grow, it’s important not to let go of the details, but try to keep focused on the nuances that keep [Polo Ralph Lauren] special.”
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