Ralph Lauren

Jane Nielsen, chief financial officer of Ralph Lauren Corp., has been elevated to executive vice president, chief operating officer and cfo.

She will continue to oversee Lauren’s finance, technology, strategy, real estate and business development organizations. Since joining Lauren as cfo in September 2016, Nielsen has been instrumental in driving the company’s financial strategy, including playing a key role in the development and implementation of its “Next Great Chapter” plan. There had not recently been a chief operating officer.

A seasoned financial executive, Nielsen was previously executive vice president and cfo of Coach Inc., and before that was a senior vice president and cfo of PepsiCo.

Jane Nielsen  courtesy shot

In another move at the company, Howard Smith, group president, international, will become chief commercial officer. Smith will oversee retail channels in all the regions in which Ralph Lauren operates. He will assume responsibility for “go-to market strategy” in North America. Under one leader, the North American and international regions are expected to have greater collaboration to ensure consistent brand elevation globally.

In addition, Jeff Kuster will be leaving his role as group president for Americas when his contract expires at the end of the month to pursue other opportunities.

The new appointments are expected to help the company continue to elevate the Ralph Lauren brand, expand in key markets and strengthen connections with consumers around the world.

Both Nielsen and Smith continue to report to Patrice Louvet, president and chief executive officer. The appointments are effective March 31.

Last June, Lauren rolled out a new strategic growth plan as it looks to energize, elevate and return the brand to sustainable long-term growth.

In February, Louvet told WWD that the company’s “Next Great Chapter Plan” was bearing results. The company’s strategic plan is focused on winning over a new generation of shoppers, energizing core products and accelerating underdeveloped categories, targeted expansion, leading with digital and operating with discipline. Lauren has been cutting back its off-price distribution and managed to expand North American sales by 3 percent in the third quarter.

For the quarter, net profits were $120 million, or $1.48 a diluted share, reversing year-ago losses of $81.8 million of $1. Adjusted earnings hit $2.32 a share, well ahead of the $2.14 Wall Street projected. Revenues for the quarter ended Dec. 29 increased 5.1 percent to $1.73 billion.

“Based on this quarter we’re actually feeling confident that our strategic investments in product, in marketing, in digital and in international expansion are on the right track. Obviously we still have work to do, but we’re encouraged by the progress. We’re about nine months into our Next Great Chapter plan…and we feel like we’re on track,” said Louvet, when disclosing third-quarter results.

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