Ralph Lauren Corp. has reopened a significant portion of its global store network and will accelerate its digital plans as pandemic restrictions ease around the world.
Chief Executive Officer Patrice Louvet said all stores in China and Korea are back in business, and Japan and Australia are set to return this week. Two-thirds of Ralph Lauren stores have been revived in Europe. In the U.S., where states are gradually lifting restrictions, about half of the fashion label’s stores have reopened.
As its stores recover, Ralph Lauren will speed up its digital plans, said Louvet. He expects the “vast majority” of growth to come from Ralph Lauren’s own 530 stores, the brand’s e-commerce website and the online shops of its wholesale partners, which include Macy’s Inc. and Saks Fifth Avenue. Department stores have been in turmoil throughout the pandemic, with Neiman Marcus Group and J.C. Penney Co. both filing for bankruptcy in May.
“We have been expanding out direct-to-consumer and e-commerce operations,” Louvet said in an interview Wednesday. “We believe that we have an opportunity to grow market share as we work through this crisis to reestablish momentum.”
Over the past two months, it has rolled out or expanded several services including curbside pickup, buy online to pick up in stores, digital appointments, Instagram checkout and virtual store tours.
The company’s executives are using China as a lead indicator as shoppers come back to its reopened stores. While comparable store sales in Asia decreased 23 per cent in constant currency in the fourth quarter, digital operations in the region grew 15 per cent. And Ralph Lauren’s business in the market has returned to growth, Louvet said. He expects the Chinese market to return to pre-COVID-19 growth trends by July.
Meanwhile, Europe remains fragmented as the company manages different reopening plans across nations. The company’s flagships remain closed in London, with U.K. retailers still locked down, though its shops in Germany have been open to the public for weeks.
In the U.S., Ralph Lauren sees the recovery varying by region. Louvet said the consumer confidence in the northeast, which includes retailers’ flagships in New York City, to be slower to return due to the severity of the outbreak in that area.
“It’s been a shock in some parts for the consumer,” said Louvet. “As activities come back to normal I expect the consumer’s confidence level will return.”
Ralph Lauren shares gained 2.8 per cent as of 10:04 a.m. in New York on Wednesday.