Ralph Lauren results top estimates as shoppers snap up Polos, pricey sweaters

By Deborah Mary Sophia

(Reuters) -Ralph Lauren Corp beat profit estimates and reported a surprise rise in fourth-quarter revenue on Thursday as its new seasonal collections resonated with affluent shoppers at a time when luxury spending has cooled in the United States.

The company’s shares rose nearly 8% after it also posted a more than 30% jump in sales in China, with demand in the key luxury market rebounding sharply.

While overall U.S. luxury spending has taken a hit, Ralph Lauren’s moves to double down on its outdoor wear and women’s clothing collections have drawn more shoppers.

Strong demand for its cable-knit sweaters and Polos have also helped the company keep promotions minimal, with quarterly revenue in North America, its biggest market, decreasing a smaller-than-expected 3%.

Ralph Lauren’s core higher-income customer base has been resilient, even in North America, Chief Executive Patrice Louvet said.

“(The) more value-oriented consumers are a smaller part of our customer base and getting smaller and smaller, as we bring in more higher-value consumers.”

Meanwhile, luxury companies ranging from LVMH and Gucci-owner Kering to Coach handbag maker Tapestry have flagged softer demand in the United States.

“Ralph Lauren has been running a really good business on all fronts, so even in a volatile sort of time, they’ve been able to have a decent performance,” said Jessica Ramirez, senior analyst at Jane Hali and Associates.

The company’s Asia segment revenue rose 13% to $390 million.

Fourth-quarter net revenue increased 1% to $1.54 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of a drop to $1.47 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Excluding items, Ralph Lauren earned 90 cents per share, beating estimates of 61 cents.

The company forecast fiscal 2024 revenue to increase in the low-single digit range, on a constant currency basis. Analysts are expecting a 5.6% rise to $6.73 billion.

(Reporting by Deborah Sophia in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shounak Dasgupta)