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NEW YORK — Say goodbye to the Polo in Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.
This story first appeared in the August 12, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At the firm’s annual meeting on Thursday, shareholders voted to change the company name to Ralph Lauren Corp. The move is a result of just how much the corporate identity has evolved over the years, with several brands and labels that do not carry the Polo name and logo. It is also in line with other developments at the company, including the change of polo.com to ralphlauren.com in 2008.
Ralph Lauren, chairman and chief executive officer, had all the reasons to be confident at the meeting. The company was one of the rare stocks to rise on Wednesday after its first-quarter results increased 52.4 percent and revenues gained 32.4 percent. Wearing a gray suit with a matching gray tie, Lauren stressed just how robust the company is, even in these volatile times.
“Thirteen years ago, this company went public, and it went public very successfully [with] about $1 billion,” Lauren said. “I remember on my IPO trip, one of the investors asked me a question. ‘Well you have been in this business for about 30 years, isn’t that enough?’ Well, we went from $1 billion to $12 billion [in retail value].”
Lauren said it was the consistent vision that separated the corporation from many others, and it’s one that applies to many markets.
“We have gone to China and there’s aspiration in China,” Lauren said. “If you want to see people that are excited about living, excited about growing, that hadn’t had the taste of luxury that we have in America….We have seen that in China, we are seeing it in India, we are seeing it in Russia, and we have just begun. This company is, as far as I am concerned, at the beginning.”
Lauren is not oblivious to the world climate, though. “We know what’s going on on Wall Street,” Lauren said “We were one of two companies, I think, in America that had amazing increases.
“I can’t give you any answers to what’s going on around the world,” he added. “We do speak to people and we do watch the world. I can only tell you this company is as solid as we ever think it should be.”
For the three months ended July 2, the company’s income rose 52.4 percent to $184.1 million, or $1.90 a diluted share, from $120.8 million, or $1.21, last year. Revenues rose 32.4 percent to $1.53 billion from $1.15 billion. Total sales for the quarter rose 33.3 percent to $1.49 billion from $1.12 billion.
Shareholders clearly had reason to be pleased. Harry Korba, an individual shareholder, pointed out how, at the time of the meeting last year, the common stock was at $85.47. “It closed yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange at $125.28,” Korba said. “The common stock has risen $39.81. Thank you very much.”
Philip Berman, a portfolio manager, used the Q&A session as an opportunity to suggest additions to the board. “Right now we are top heavy on the over-60 level,” Berman said. “In fact, now would be the ideal time to nominate David Lauren to the board and to have him as chief operating officer of the newly-minted Ralph Lauren Corp.”
Berman also asked Lauren whether there could one day be another acquisition for the company that is comparable to when it bought Club Monaco in 1999, or whether future growth would rely on internal expansion.
“I would never say never, and when we talk about Club Monaco, it has great potential,” Lauren said. “It is doing very well today and so I think we are open to anything that comes along that we think is valid.”