Thursday 22 March 2018

Polo-shirt king Ralph Lauren to step down as lifestyle brand's chief executive

A model at a Ralph Lauren fashion show
A model at a Ralph Lauren fashion show
Designer Ralph Lauren

Lindsey Rupp

Ralph Lauren, the man whose name has become synonymous with preppy fashion across the globe, is stepping down from the top job at the clothing empire he founded a half century ago.

With sales growth fading, the stock down 44pc this year and Lauren days away from his 76th birthday, the company named Stefan Larsson, a rising retail star credited with reviving Gap's Old Navy brand, to take over as chief executive officer.

Lauren will stay on as creative director and executive chairman.

The stock jumped as much as 5.6pc after the announcement, underscoring the sentiment among investors that while Lauren is still the creative mind behind the brand, a younger successor with turnaround credentials was needed to take on new challengers.

"It's really important to keep the core of the Ralph Lauren brand and all that it stands for, but also to freshen it up," said Liz Dunn, ceo of consulting firm Talmage Advisors.

At Old Navy, Larsson "tried to get to the essence of what the brand meant to consumers and move from there -- which probably is the right approach at Ralph Lauren, too."

Lauren will remain with Ralph Lauren Corp as executive chairman and chief creative officer. Larsson (41) will take over the ceo job in November and join the retailer's board. Chief operating officer Jackwyn Nemerov will retire.

At Gap, Larsson helped shape the value-focused Old Navy chain into the retailer's star performer since becoming its global president in 2012. Larsson, formerly at Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), drove sales at Old Navy with an operating model that systematically identifies trends, develops versatile fabrics for the products, tests the items in stores, then ramps up marketing and production.

Comparable sales at Old Navy have outstripped the San Francisco-based company's Gap and Banana Republic brands for the past six quarters.

"Stefan Larsson is exceptionally talented, and he will bring our company a fresh and exciting global perspective," Lauren said in the statement.

Lauren, born Ralph Lifshitz, started by selling wide ties at a Bloomingdale's boutique in the late 1960s. His company went public in 1997 and is now a full lifestyle brand. (Bloomberg)

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