NEW YORK — Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.’s annual meeting on Thursday was a very brief affair. It almost seemed that, after a successful year, the results spoke for themselves and there really wasn’t much more for chairman and chief executive officer Ralph Lauren to say.
Dressed in a navy suit, with a French blue shirt, white collar and navy tie, Lauren spoke for only five minutes, and the entire meeting lasted for a little more than 20 minutes. About 50 shareholders attended, all of whom received a colored wristband of their choice, which, in the age of wristband symbolism, had little meaning other than to ensure that everyone in attendance was checked in.
“I want to thank you all for coming this morning. I didn’t know whether I should dance in here or not,” joked the designer at the start of the meeting.
He thanked employees for their hard work in the past year and told shareholders the firm he founded is where it is today not because of a look, but because it is “about a company with a vision.”
There was one moment when Lauren briefly winced at the mention of his age.That came when Harry Korber, a shareholder from Yonkers who attends every year, noted the designer is 65 years old. “You have to give all my secrets away,” Lauren retorted, jokingly.
Korber challenged the $13.3 million bonus Lauren received in fiscal 2005, similar to a challenge last year over the chairman’s then $8 million bonus. Both were tagged to the company’s quarterly dividend rate. Polo gives its shareholders a dividend of 5 cents a share, or 20 cents a share on an annual basis. Korber said the quarterly dividend hasn’t been increased in two years.
The company seems to be galloping ahead of its competitors. Sales at the Madison Avenue store on 77th Street were $55 million in fiscal 2005, up 9 percent from a year ago. In addition, the company is opening a Double RL boutique at 390 Bleecker Street next month, and another at 31 Prince Street in NoLIta in early October.
In an interview after the meeting, Lauren said the company’s accessories assortment is a major initiative, and added that consumers will be”seeing a lot of” RLX, a high-performance athletic apparel collection.
As an example, he pointed to a 7,000-square-foot Polo store that opened in Aspen last November. A first for Polo, it features a 2,500-square-foot RLX shop within the store, which even has its own entrance.
Lauren said the company is looking for Ralph Lauren stores with more square footage so they can better showcase the Black Label line for both menand women. Lauren didn’t rule out the possibility that Black Label could eventually have its own freestanding store.
“All the brands we have are major concepts,” he said. “Any of our concepts could be stand-alone.”