Just a few weeks ago, Ralph Lauren shared an impressive double-digit growth in earnings across all regions to investors, including a 64 percent AUR increase, bringing up prices while also increasing consumer perceived value perception of the brand.
With credit to the tremendous strategy that the leadership team has put in place and the level of engagement and alignment that need to be executed, Niall Maher, chief merchandising officer and senior vice president, men’s and women’s Polo, Polo Sport and RLX Brands at Ralph Lauren, took to the stage during the WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit to say “that’s not really the secret [behind the success]. I think the secret may be better described where the magic is the culture. And Patrice will say, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast for breakfast,’ but you can’t overstate the degree to which the culture of Ralph Lauren comes from Ralph Lauren the man.”
Moreover, he said, Ralph Lauren is obsessed with the strength of style over fashion and remains continuously curious about the customer. With that, the idea becomes about “enabling people’s self-expression, making them feel confident and comfortable. That quality of life is what lifestyle really means. So, that’s permeated our company, and that drives our culture and will embody that, and I think, in recent years, we’ve been more methodical about putting that curiosity work and sharpening our focus on the customer in that way.”
The culture of curiosity starts at the top and even impacts the product in a way that arouses curiosity related to the product to help drive that culture. A lot of this is intuition, but a lot of this is the result of constant observation, Maher said. To understand the consumer and what they’re responding to at scale, the company is working to recontextualize how it thinks about results, focusing on the consumer. That’s where MakerSights comes in.
MakerSights is a leading voice of consumer platform that was purpose-built for consumer insights and testing apparel, footwear and accessories. MakerSights empowers brands to make consumer data-informed decisions that improved margins, increase profitability and reduce waste (wasted time, money and valuable natural resources).
With MakerSights, Maher explained, Ralph Lauren is now able to get the real-time feedback that used to be gained by walking the floor at scale. The digitally enabled technology shows what is resonating in Germany versus in South Korea, the oldest customer versus the younger customer. And that information can inform real-time decisions that companies need to be making.
“I think there can be a misperception around Ralph Lauren and its timelessness,” Maher said. “We have this unwavering sense of who we are, but at the root of that is a constant curiosity about what’s next and the constant desire to evolve and reflect our customers changing dreams and aspirations. And my team, we’re doing [that] just through looking at a set of insights versus hindsight and also looking at KPIs that are reflective of customers coming into contact with our experiences and our products.”
Dan Leahy, chief executive officer and cofounder of MakerSights, noted that while consumers’ experiences with Ralph Lauren are certainly more complex, there is a continued direct-to-consumer mind-set across all of the brand’s channels, with each Ralph Lauren label occupying emotional space with customers.
With that in mind, Maher shared all of the labels are being thought of with the next-generation proposition and noted that “recognizing that space, the work we’ve done with MakerSights around testing [what resonates with customers] has allowed us to think through literally logos and how we use them and the weight they carry with new consumers. It has to evolve. It has to reflect the fact that customers are looking for versatility — products that would take them from the golf course to the gym, to the office, in the work environment and out to dinner with friends and family.”
Being able to get insights in real-time, he said, has been invaluable.