An Upbeat Ralph Plots Growth With Cosmetics and Denim

Ralph Lauren has his eye on two big product developments in the next year — reentering cosmetics and introducing a premium denim product.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Ralph Lauren has his eye on two big product developments in the next year — reentering the cosmetics world and introducing a premium denim product.

Lauren revealed the plans in response to questions from shareholders at the Polo Ralph Lauren annual meeting on Thursday at the St. Regis hotel, where the designer playfully handled a volley of queries by investors who asked him to consider a Grandparents’ Day promotion, to apply pockets to his signature Polo shirts and to give up his annual bonus in exchange for the company’s 5 cent-per-share quarterly dividend.

“This company is flying in terms of freely going where I thought we should go,” Lauren said. “We are in charge of our own destiny.”

Having faced such questions from the same shareholders before, Lauren, who is chairman and chief executive officer of the company, was prepared with his responses and remained upbeat throughout the 45-minute meeting.

During his remarks, Lauren — clad in a black suit, white shirt with French cuffs and a Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” yellow plastic bracelet — outlined several areas of strong performance for the company, noting its retail business of 346 stores is profitable, citing volume figures for specific products and reiterating that they were hitting their targets. The women’s Lauren by Ralph Lauren sportswear business, which the company took over following a dispute with its licensee, Jones Apparel Group, is on track to do $400 million in sales this year, and the company’s business in Europe — bought back from its licensees — will hit $500 million, and “that business is going to be a $1 billion business,” he said.

Polo began fiscal 2005 on a solid footing, as first-quarter results for the three months ended July 3 skyrocketed 165.1 percent to $13.4 million on a 24.1 percent revenue gain to $592.8 million, versus income of $5.1 million on revenues of $477.7 million in the year-ago quarter. For fiscal 2004 ended April 3, income dipped slightly by 1.9 percent to $171 million, while revenues rose 8.6 percent to $2.65 billion, as reported.

After the meeting, Lauren said the positive numbers indicate “the beginning of a lot of other interesting things for the company.”
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