Ralph Lauren Corp. (RL) on Thursday, Nov. 2, reported solid second-quarter earnings, months after the company's CEO was ousted after spearheading a painful restructuring.
During the company's fiscal 2018 second quarter, ending Sept. 30, Ralph Lauren earned $1.99 per share, while analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of $1.89 per share. Sales of $1.66 billion also exceeded the consensus estimates of $1.64 billion. Free cash flow of $362 million was up from $67 million in the same quarter of last year.
Maintaining its guidance, Ralph Lauren expects net revenue to drop 6% to 8% next quarter, and 8% to 9% in the full 2018 fiscal year. Ralph Lauren also boosted its operating margin guidance for the full year to 9.5% to 10.5%, up from 9% to 10.5%.
Former Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) beauty executive Patrice Louvet became CEO on July 15 after the surprise departure of former CEO Stefan Larsson. Larsson, who turned around Gap Inc.'s (GPS) Old Navy unit, left after just 15 months as the company's first CEO besides founder Ralph Lauren. Larsson and Lauren reportedly clashed over Larsson's Way Forward restructuring program. Lauren serves as the company's chief creative officer.
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Limited-edition apparel initiatives, like monthly new polo shirt launches, and a media-centric fashion show at Ralph Lauren's garage in Bedford, N.Y., are driving social media engagement and new customers, Louvet said.
CFO Jane Nielsen added that deadly hurricanes in North America hurt the company's same-store sales by about 1%. The company is also selling less to off-price channels like TJX Cos. Inc. (TJX) and Burlington Stores Inc. (BURL) . The impact is expected to continue as Ralph Lauren attempts to bolster its luxury image.
Louvet also emphasized the company's focus on the Asia market. Same-store sales grew 4% in Asia, while constant-currency sales grew 3%. China is a particular area of focus, because of the brand's strong brand awareness but limited presence there.
"With operations in China now profitable for RL, as penetration in this market grows, we think it could benefit RL's margin long-term," wrote Cowen and Co. LLC analyst John Kernan, adding that he believes declines in e-commerce sales reflect management's attempts "to proactively pull back on discounting."
Macy's Inc. (M) accounts for about 10% of Ralph Lauren's sales, according to Barclays analysts, who also described the brand's product as "less relevant" amid "evolving consumer preferences."
Ralph Lauren is less popular with teenagers, according to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey, with apparel companies like Ralph Lauren, Fossil Group Inc. (FOSL) , Steve Madden Ltd. (SHOO) , Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (KORS) and Tapestry Inc. (TPR) , formerly known as Coach.
Ralph Lauren shares rose 6.2% to $95.02 in Thursday morning trading. Shares are down 0.96% year to date, while the S&P has risen 15.2% during that period.
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