Ralph Lauren Corporation is galloping at a faster clip than when its namesake founder first entered the arena some 45 years ago. With golden mallet brands such as Polo by Ralph Lauren, Chaps, RRL, Rugby, Club Monaco, and RLX Ralph Lauren, the company designs and markets apparel and accessories, home furnishings, and fragrances. Its collections are available at some 11,000 locations worldwide, including many upscale and mid-tier department stores. (Macy's accounts for 20% of all wholesale revenue.) The company operates about 380 Ralph Lauren, Club Monaco, and Rugby retail stores worldwide as well as half a dozen e-commerce sites. American style icon and CEO Lauren controls the company.
In recent years Ralph Lauren has expanded its business through acquisitions, extended the reach of its retail operations, and experienced organic growth. Between 2008 and 2012 sales have grown by more than 40%. Its accessories business rivals European competitors as a luxury brand, thanks to strategic partnerships with licensees including Richemont SA (to form Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry Co.) and the Italian eyewear giant Luxottica Group, which designs, manufactures, and distributes Ralph Lauren-branded prescription frames and sunglasses. Luxottica's US arm also makes Club Monaco-branded prescription frames and sunglasses sold in the US and Canada. Other major licensing partners include Hanes (under garments and sleepwear), L'Oréal (fragrance), and Warnaco (Chaps sportswear). With its products available in every section of a department store -- there's even Ralph Lauren paint at Home Depot -- the company remains profitable as a leader in the fashion and retail industry. Macy's accounts for 20% of Ralph Lauren's wholesale sales. By mutual agreement, Ralph Lauren and JC Penney, which markets mid-priced American Living-branded clothes and housewares through a partnership with the upscale brand, ended their relationship effective in Q4 fiscal 2012. Ralph Lauren is further able to bring its classic American style to the global market as an official outfitter of the US Olympic team. It has counted on its association with the Olympics to translate into millions of dollars in sales of Olympics-branded apparel and accessories. The company has extended the deal through the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and beyond.
To give the apparel maker more control of its operations in Asia, which represents 14% of sales, Ralph Lauren has been buying out its licensees. In 2011 the company acquired its South Korean wholesale and retail distribution operation from licensee Doosan Corp. for about $47 million. Previously, it bought out its licensing partner Dickson Concepts in a deal valued at about $37 million in 2009. Dickson was a licensee for the Polo brand in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. It also acquired the children's wear and golf apparel inventory of former licensee, Naigai Co. Ltd., based in Japan.
Ralph Lauren controls the company through his ownership of about 73% of the voting shares of the company. Previously, Lauren had disclosed plans in 2010 to sell more than a quarter of his holdings as "part of his individual asset diversification plan." Despite possibly netting about $955 million through the sale, the chief executive still maintains a stake sizeable enough to remain in control of the company. Around this time, as well, the company changed its name by dropping the Polo from its Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation. – less