Ralph Lauren Earnings Call Insights: Top Line Update and Europe Details

Ralph Lauren Corp (NYSE:RL) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Top Line Update

Omar Saad – ISI Group: Hoping you guys can comment on looking at the top line overall for the company, it’s been a little bit soft for the last couple of quarters and you obviously got all this great kind of global long-term growth opportunities. It seems like there was also a little bit of discrepancy, Wholesale top line versus Retail. What gives you confidence in the kind of this re-acceleration you’re going to see in the back half? Are there certain elements either within the segmentation of different brands, regions, channels? Just kind of give us an update on your overall kind of view on this top line re-acceleration that’s coming.

Roger N. Farah – President and COO: So, Omar, I’ll try that, and then Jackie and Chris can chime in if they want to add. I think you’re right, in the last couple of quarters, for various discrete reasons, we’ve had the results as you commented. While we delivered the plan for the first quarter, I would say that spring, summer was a bit choppy in terms of overall trends in the apparel market. On a regional basis, it was interesting because it was pretty good in the U.S., actually better than expected in Europe, with Asia being down, and that was really a combination of strong results in the early days of China and Southeast Asia, but weaker results in Japan and Korea. Some of that being FX, some of that really being the shop-in-shop businesses that dominate both Korea and Japan and I think those two markets and the department store distribution network in them experienced contractions, and so really, it was a series of different results around the globe, as we head into fall and holiday, we feel good about the product, early reads, and I know it’s early for fall, have been good, we’re seeing the strengthening of key markets in Europe. We’ve had some good wholesale pre-books in Europe beginning to flatten out and then grow the forward bookings after several seasons of contractions there. We’ve got some strong product initiatives, as Jackie articulated, and so we’re feeling like, in the go-forward business, we’ll have less of the one-offs that we’ve experienced, plus the addition of Chaps for Men’s, plus the addition of Australia, plus the launching of some of these e-commerce sites where we’ve been carrying the expenses and haven’t gotten the revenues. Lastly, and this is true for most people with businesses here in the U.S., we’re going against the effects of Sandy, which did impact part of the fall season last year. So for lots of reasons, the underlying trends of the last quarter, with the Easter shift, which is sort of unique to us, because of the way it splits between March and April and some of the FX, we delivered the plan perhaps not as much as we had hoped but I think we’re encouraged about fall and beyond.

Christopher H. Peterson – CFO: The only thing I would add is that, this next wave of SAP, which we’re implementing toward the end of the quarter, is causing us to shift a little bit of our revenue, particularly in the Wholesale business, out of the second quarter and into the third quarter. So we’re going to shift some shipments out of the last week of September and into the first week of October, and that’s having a little bit of a split impact between the second and the third quarter revenue guidance.

Europe Details

Kate McShane – Citi: Roger, this was somewhat answered in the first question, but I wondered if there could be more, a little bit more detail. I know last year, around the time of the second quarter, you had decided to pull back some products from Europe because of the state of the world there at the time. Are those sales returning in that region?

Roger N. Farah – President and COO: Okay, Kate, well, you know I love detail, so I’m glad you asked. I would start by just giving you a sense of the trends in Europe. We’ve talked in the past about sort of a general strength in the North and a little bit softer in the South, and while that continues sort of as a headline, we actually have seen this season, France get a little softer than it’s been in the past, but strength in Germany and the U.K. and the Scandinavian markets and other markets have actually encouraged us. We proactively pulled back really on two levels. One, the countries that are dominated by specialty store distribution like Italy. Where the specialty stores were struggling and we were very cautious about putting product into them that quite frankly we might not have gotten paid for. So we really work to proactively reduce that. We worked with our better specialty store customers, but that was a decision to balance inflow of product and the risk of not getting paid and quite frankly we’ve managed that beautiful. In the department store channels countries that are dominated mostly by department store distribution which is Spain and Germany, parts of France and the U.K. As their business has been soft excluding Chinese tourists, we worked hard to get the inventory turns and the supply and demand alignment and as I briefly said in the beginning of my comments. We are beginning to see that turn and the go forward bookings in Europe are encouraging in the places we are choosing to sell. So after several quarters or a year of contraction that was strategically applied to the Wholesale channel we are beginning to see that reverse in the go forward product categories countries and region. So I think that’s good news.

A Closer Look: Ralph Lauren Earnings Cheat Sheet>>