Lauren Just Went Un-Ivy

The Amazing Tom just sent me an article that stepped me back a bit. Fodder for discussion.

Here’s the article.

They say the right thing. That they are elevating the product, the storytelling. And I think they have. Lauren’s recent projects directed toward inclusion are fantastic.

BUT. The article states that Lauren, over the last 5 years, has raised their prices by 80%. That is some mighty expensive storytelling.

I am reminded of Michael Lewis’ work on American Express in the 80’s and the failure of their mixed-message marketing whereby they represented an exclusive club to which everyone could belong.

On the site here I have told a few stories about Ralph Lauren the person, of whom I am fond. I am not fond of the strategy of price elevation as a brand enhancement vehicle. At some point, charging $10 for a paper cup does not make it a better cup.

Lauren is a luxury brand (their words not mine) that you can buy at TJ Maxx.


13 Comments on "Lauren Just Went Un-Ivy"

  1. Charlottesville | July 19, 2023 at 5:22 pm |

    An 80% price increase in 5 years seems crazy to me. I just took a quick look at the Polo website and, at least for the standard “Blue Label” Polo suits, the prices seem pretty much in line with what they were in the early 2000s, when I would shop the annual sales at the Madison Ave. flagship. Full price for a suit then as now would be between $900 and $1,500, with the annual sales taking around 30 to 40% off whatever was left in my size.

    Perhaps the online merchandise is at at the lower end, although they are showing Purple Label suits that, then as now, go for the price bespoke. I wonder where the price increases are showing up. Maybe in the jewelry and women’s clothing, or home furnishings?

    I am not really a Ralph Lauren target customer, and have always bought most of my stuff at Brooks in the old days, and then J. Press since the 90s. But I think the on-line Polo prices seemed typical, and I always though the quality of their tailored clothing was high, even if more English than Ivy. I would love to browse the NY shop again, but rarely get up there these days. Even if I am not buying, the displays are often a pleasure to look at.

    As to the fact that one sees the the pony shirts at discount stores, I would imagine that does somewhat undercut the lux brand image. I think Tiffany made a similar decision a few years ago to phase out the affordable sterling silver knickknacks (like the pen I have been using for the past 20 years), in favor of high-end jewelry.

  2. Inclusion — being ALL things to ALL people — is a recipe for failure…….. My father was in the boat business for years. Once, as a very young man, I asked him why they had no sailboats. He told me if they were to add sailboats, they would lose the powerboat buyers and NOT pick up the sailors. Powerboaters, he said cryptically, drink beer, sailboaters drink white wine….. Ralph Lauren’s market aim seemed to be social climbing people who wanted to buy their first $400 tennis racket. Few people play tennis anymore.

  3. I have bought three PRL shirts from TJ Maxx this month (one bleeding Madras and two OCBDs) for an average of $75. That is an appropriate price point for the quality which is good but not luxury. I never pay more than half the PRL full retail price and shop mainly in the sales.

  4. Eric Swanson | July 21, 2023 at 5:17 pm |

    Most everything the RL label carries is made in china…
    The standard cotton polo was, at one time, made in the USA and their knitwear was mostly produced in the British Colony of Hong Kong. These places of manufacture were also seen on many of Brook’s labels.
    Inflating the retail prices of sub-par items that can be obtained in outlet malls and overstock chain stores is one thing, but inflating prices with labels that are printed with made in china labels is a bit difficult to swallow.

  5. MacMcConnell | July 23, 2023 at 5:51 pm |

    It’s sad, everything RL produce in the 1970s and 1980s was produced in the USA. The exceptions were British leather and woolen goods.

  6. 80% is a stretch, I can’t think of a single item they sell, including the Camelhair polo coat that went up that much. 20%-25% is the reality. Wool Polo suits were $1395 five years ago, today they are $1695 to $1995; however many of them are now sold as separate which is nice since it gives you a better command of the fit if you have broad shoulders, or a bigger waist or anything other than standard sizing. Black Label Suits were $2200-$2300. Black Label is now folded into Purple Label as the non-fully hand made tier PL suit and they are $2700-$2900. The fully handmaid stuff was $4500 to $5500 five years ago, today its $5900~. The Polo Doeskin blazer has been $895 for nearly a decade, except now they have DB models at $1195 which are made in Italy.

    • John Burton | July 24, 2023 at 4:00 pm |

      I thought that was a big number when I heard it too. But that’s the report.

  7. Now after milking the preppy illusion to the public they are on the inclusion bus. ROAD TO FAILURE and all brands have gone down that road in tandem. The brand never was for people who lived the actual lifestyle RL now appears to be in mode with this everything for everyone model. Ruination waiting to happen as many have found out already. Look at the state of Brooks Bros. no original loyal generation customer will touch them now. I am one of them.

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