By  on January 5, 1994

NEW YORK -- Is there trouble at the ranch?

Double RL, which Ralph Lauren last May predicted "could be my biggest launch yet," isn't meeting many retailers' expectations, and there are widespread reports of stacks of expensive jeans gathering dust.

Of course, it is the line's first season and Lauren executives insist they're on target, though privately some admit there are "growing pains."

Lance Isham, executive vice president of sales and merchandising for Polo-Ralph Lauren Corp., maintained that the firm is pleased with the RRL launch, especially in the 36 doors that have full RRL collection shops. He conceded that there are a few kinks to iron out with prices and that some will be lowered for spring.

Another glitch has been in selling classification pieces -- which are in some 400 major stores -- without the full shop environment.

Isham added that it's a tough time to debut a new jeanswear line.

"We opened 36 collection shops around the country and 28 of those are very successful," he said, citing Nordstrom's, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's as retailers who have had success with the line. "The collection shops in the south part of the country have been less strong, most likely because of the weights of many of the fabrics that were used for fall."

But, according to market reports, there are millions of dollars worth of inventory being returned. The company is said to be taking back an estimated $10 million in merchandise, rather than see it go on sale, according to sources.

Executives at several key stores said the problems with the line boil down to the following:

  • Confusion about RRL's target customer.
  • High prices.
  • An oversaturated jeans market.
  • Ill-fitting jeans.
  • An abundance of authentic vintage looks already available at thrift stores.
RRL, however, does have its share of supporters.

Fred Hackett, Nordstrom's regional merchandise manager for men's wear in Washington, confirmed that the Seattle store is doing well with its RRL shop and that two of the four doors carrying classifications are doing well, the other two just "so-so."

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