Annual meetings are usually staid corporate affairs with brief remarks and routine votes — and that was true of Ralph Lauren Corp.’s virtual shareholder gathering Thursday.
But the question-and-answer session did get a little spicy, as shareholders hit up top management with questions on a few hot-button issues.
Asked about the rumors that Lauren could link forces with luxury powerhouse LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Patrice Louvet, president and chief executive officer, reasserted the company’s policy to not comment on rumors.
The CEO did note, however, that, “Ralph and I are confident in the company and its growth trajectory,” referring, of course, to Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer who controls the company.
In his earlier remarks, Louvet noted that the firm was gaining ground despite the “still volatile global backdrop” — one that has brands of all stripes wrestling with inflation, the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, supply chain backups and more.
“All three of our regions are back to top-line growth,” Louvet said. “Our revenues are slightly ahead of pre-pandemic levels and operating profit dollars are also 30 percent higher, all while ramping up investments in marketing, digital, new stores and our people.”
The CEO said the business has been “fundamentally repositioned” and that the effort was “already starting to yield positive results.”
The other tough questions from shareholders fell to Katie Ioanilli, chief global impact and communications officer.
Asked why the company continues to produce products in China despite human rights concerns, Ioanilli asserted that Ralph Laruen follows the United Nations’ guiding principles in the area and insists that its suppliers do the same.
Ioanilli also fielded a question on when the company would stop the sale of exotic skins.
“We use an extremely small amount of exotic skins across our products,” she said, noting that “responsible trade in animal skins also supports local income and livelihoods” particularly in rural tropical communities.