NEW YORK — It appears the see-now-buy-now movement just got a big convert: Ralph Lauren.
This story first appeared in the September 13, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WWD can confirm that Lauren’s upcoming fashion show Wednesday night will showcase a see-now-buy-now designer collection featuring 45 new fall 2016 looks. The show, for retailers, editors and top customers, will take place outdoors in front of the women’s flagship at 888 Madison Avenue (between 71st and 72nd Streets), which will be closed off to traffic.
Lauren already presented a fall collection of 46 looks last February, which arrived in stores in August. This new fall collection will be in addition to that and will be housed in a separate area of the brand’s flagships worldwide.
“See-now-buy-now gives you the ability to be right there where the action is,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer, in an interview Monday. “We wanted to do this without telling anybody,” but word got out.
“We think it’s the right thing to do,” he added.
The new see-now-buy-now collection is completely different from the fall line shown in February, which centered on Lauren’s affinity for British style. The company declined to divulge the new collection’s theme — and would only reveal a few looks — but said it’s built on fall and moves into holiday.
For years, customers have been frustrated that they’d see a designer style on the runway and couldn’t buy it for six months, and then there were the knock-offs and copies of it, said Lauren. He thought, “Why can’t we deliver in the season that they want it? She doesn’t have to wait, she can go and shop right at the show.”
He said stores have continually demanded that collections ship earlier and earlier, so this addresses that situation as well.
Designing and manufacturing a second fall collection was not without its challenges, and production schedules had to be readjusted accordingly. The entire see-now-buy-now collection, which maintains the same quality and workmanship as the first fall line, is manufactured in Italy.
Lauren has invited retailers, press and top customers to two separate runway shows — 200 people at each — that will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The company worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to get a permit to close down the street. The entire block will be roped off to traffic and guests will be seated outside and are invited to come into the store afterwards to make purchases.
Ready-to-wear, accessories, handbags and footwear will be part of the see-now-wear-now offerings. In addition, the company will host an event for its top customers Thursday morning at the New York flagship. The company will live-stream the show on Facebook, which directs the consumer back to the web site so they can make purchases.
Asked if he’d ever consider doing a see-now-buy-now show in men’s wear, Lauren replied, “We’re just working on this.”
The designer joins a growing list of companies that have shown, or will show, see-now-buy-now collections this season, including Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Rebecca Minkoff, Alice + Olivia, Thakoon, Opening Ceremony and, next week in London, Burberry.
According to Lauren, the overarching idea is to “make a statement down the runway of ‘this is who I am,’ and it’s original and it’s fresh, and they can react to it then and buy now.” The company has already shown the see-now-buy-now collection to retailers, most of which are the Lauren stores, and they have purchased it. The new line will be available immediately following the show at global Lauren flagships in New York, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Beverly Hills (which is being renovated and will reopen at the end of the month), as well as other Lauren shops, in addition to Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue.
In February, Lauren plans to show spring 2017 (the first of his two 50th anniversary shows next year) on the runway, and will most likely only have one line, since the company will have caught up to itself in this new see-now-buy-now universe.
A preview of some of the luxury looks that will be shown Wednesday included an allover blue sequin gown (retailing for $8,500) and an allover patterned sequin jacket ($5,990) and beaded pant ($5,490). “We’ll be doing show stoppers that are sporty, and show stoppers that are dressy,” he said.
Lauren’s shift to see now-buy now comes at a critical time for the $7.3 billion company, which is undergoing a radical transformation. In June, Stefan Larsson, the group’s president and chief executive officer, outlined his Way Forward Plan, a series of initiatives aimed at getting the brand back on a growth track. These included speeding up the supply chain; focusing on the core collections of Ralph Lauren, Polo and Lauren; closing stores, and reducing management layers from nine to six that resulted in job cuts of about 8 percent of the firm’s workforce, or 1,000 people this year.
In fiscal 2016, the company closed 43 stores, with another 50-plus store closures expected during fiscal 2017. The store closures are expected to generate $70 million in cost savings.
The company said at the time that it anticipated that this would be a multiyear journey and it was looking to enter sustainable profitable growth in 2019-20.
Among some of the initiatives at Lauren is a change in the company’s e-commerce platforms, which is underway. It also is working more closely with its wholesale partners to cut lead times and match demand to supply better. As a result of these moves, fiscal 2017 restructuring activities are expected to result in $180 million to $220 million of annualized expense savings, which is on top of the $125 million cost savings from fiscal 2016’s restructuring activities. The company also expects to incur restructuring charges of up to $400 million as a result of these measures and up to $150 million inventory charge associated with the reduction of inventory out of liquidation channels in line with the new plan.
For the three months ended July 2, Lauren posted a net loss of $22 million, or 27 cents a diluted share, against net income of $64 million, or 73 cents, a year ago. On an adjusted basis, excluding restructuring and impairment and inventory-related charges, diluted earnings per share were $1.06. Total revenues declined 4.1 percent to $1.55 billion from $1.62 billion. At the time, Larsson said the company was moving in the right direction and had begun making progress in several areas from strengthening the leadership team to improving product and assortments, to starting to cut lead times and improving sourcing.
Asked how he feels the turnaround plan is going, Lauren said, “It’s going well.” He said the changes have been good for some people, and not good for others. “A new ceo comes into a company and makes changes. He’s very smart. I think he’s the right man,” said Lauren.
The company is opening a new store on Regent Street in London later this week, joining the several already there. The first fall collection that’s already in stores, is doing well, Lauren said, and in particular, the velvet dresses, velvet frock and brocade jacquard gown.
The performance of the Lauren better-priced line is improving, the designer said. “It’s looking a lot better. It’s a work in progress. It wasn’t great, and we’re reworking it and it’s getting favorable comments. The business was not good in the stores. The question is how are they picking it up and how are they helping us and showing it the way it should be shown,” he said.
There are changes going on in the industry and companies need to be able to react quickly to the Internet, Lauren said. “There are major changes in every company. This is about going forward and correcting what isn’t right. I’ve been there before.”