NEW YORK — While Ralph Lauren may have told shareholders Thursday “this is just the beginning” regarding growth at the company, it was actually a brand new chapter for son David, who became the newest board member of Ralph Lauren Corp.
About 80 attendees, including shareholders and employees, met at the St. Regis here at 2 East 55th Street for their annual August get-together, which began promptly at 9:30 a.m. and lasted for a half-hour.
“I am very pleased to introduce David Lauren as our newest member of the board,” said Lauren, chairman and chief executive officer, wearing a gray suit with a matching gray tie. “He’s been with our company for 12 years and he has done a great job, so welcome David.”
David Lauren, 41, currently executive vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications, first joined the company in 2001, when he was named chief creative and marketing officer for its e-commerce and media organization. He is also president of the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation, and serves on the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention board of trustees. His election brings the total number of board members to 13.
After the meeting, the newly minted board member said. “It’s a very proud feeling. I feel very lucky to be able to have a different perspective on the company and to be able to work with [the board]. For me, this is all part of growing and learning and trying to bring exposure to what we can do as a company, where we can grow, what we can change, what the future looks like. I feel very humbled and I think I am going to do a lot of listening and learning over the next few years.”
The meeting included a video reviewing the company’s initiatives in the past year, from fragrance launches to new stores in Russia, China, Kuwait and, more locally, East Hampton, N.Y. It also mentioned its continued support of the Wimbledon Championships, as well as its national corporate sponsorship of PBS’ Masterpiece series, with footage from the hit television show “Downton Abbey.” At the end of the clip, Lauren can be heard stating, “This is just the beginning.”
“It chokes you up a little bit, at least for me,” the chairman said. “You sort of forget during the year all the projects that we do; all the people who work in this company who do such an amazing job building the brand, building women’s and building men’s….Everything we’ve done is a labor of love.”
Lauren also spoke of the firm’s future, noting, “This company, in my mind, is endless. What you are seeing here now, in years to come, will be doubled in my opinion — not in more products, but in the quality and integrity of all things we have been showing. Will we have more children’s businesses? Yes. Will we expand the men’s wear; will we expand Polo? Yes. People talk about accessories and handbags and watches. We have it all in our stores. They’re just infants, they are not developed yet.”
There was a light-hearted moment when one shareholder asked the chairman about the ratio of preplanned purchases versus impulse buys, and the percentage of sales from mobile devices.
“Roger, you want to answer that?” Lauren asked of his president and chief operating officer Roger Farah.
“For 13 years I have been waiting for a speaking part, but this wasn’t the question I was looking for,” Farah said, garnering laughter from the audience.
“I don’t really have a number of how many people have planned purchases in mind versus unplanned….I think our business is based on aspiration and not need, so most of our sales in our own stores are really based on the customer seeing the product and falling in love with it. Mobile devices today are growing quickly….About a third of the people on our Web site come through mobile devices, so we expect this to be a vehicle of the future,” Farah said.