The Polo pony is riding into China.
Ralph Lauren plans to open a store a week in China, said company president and CEO Patrice Louvet. This decision may seem surprising given concerns about an economic slowdown in China and the fact that most consumers there can already be reached online. But the CEO explained at a recent panel in Hong Kong that “stores are crucial for projecting the company as an aspirational company, one that provides experiences for its customers.”
“We concluded that we are in the dream business,” Louvet said at The New York Times Luxury Conference last week. “So to some extent, we think we are closer to a company like Disney than we are to other apparel brands.”
The company’s revenue from Greater China (the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau) was up over 20 percent year-on-year in the quarter ended Sept. 29 of this year. Mainland China revenue alone was up 40 percent from 2017.
Given that rate of growth, such an expansion was necessary, said the CEO. “Because we don’t believe we are just selling stuff, we are selling a dream, a lifestyle, we are offering worlds that customers can be a part of,” Louvet said, “…so for us to provide that experiences, we need both the digital world and the brick-and-mortar world.”
Ralph Lauren also continues to invest in digital bullishly, in September, the brand launched its RalphLauren.cn digital flagship store and WeChat mini-program in China. Laying the foundation of both online and offline channels, Ralph Lauren is aiming to reach $500 million in revenue in five years from the Greater China market.
Ralph Lauren has already been increasing exposure of its brand in China. In February this year, Ralph Lauren chose Hong Kong to launch its first branded coffee shop in Asia, Ralph’s Coffee. Decorated in classic American preppy style and offering cake and coffee, it intends to indulge the visitors to immerse in the Ralph Lauren world with all five senses.