Ralph Lauren's 4Q profit rises 35 pct, but posts sales shortfall

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Ralph Lauren Corp. reported a 35 per cent increase in fourth-quarter profit as the luxury retailer benefited from lower cotton prices and cost controls.

But the seller of Polo and other brands saw its stock fall Thursday because its revenue fell below Wall Street expectations amid poor weather, economic challenges in the U.S. and abroad and the move to eliminate some businesses to focus on the most profitable ones.

The results, announced Thursday, show how the New York based luxury company is seeing increasing profits since the first half of its fiscal year, when cotton costs soared and the company was bearing the brunt of the costs of eliminating certain businesses such as its Rugby brand. But it’s still navigating the rough patches of a choppy global economy.

“Our better-than-expected profitability in the fourth quarter and full year fiscal 2013 periods is a direct result of the strong operational management of our global teams,” Roger Farah, president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Enhanced profit flow-through was achieved despite sustained macroeconomic challenges and strategic decisions that mitigated revenue growth during the year.”

The New York-based company reported net income of $127.2 million, or $1.37 per share, for the three months that ended March 30. That compares with $94.4 million, or 99 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose a slim 1.2 per cent to $1.64 billion. Excluding the impact of strategies to eliminate some businesses as well as the effects from unfavourable foreign currency translation, revenue increased 5 per cent.

Analysts had expected earnings of $1.31 per share on revenue of $1.7 billion.

Ralph Lauren said that its wholesale segment’s sales slipped 4 per cent to $796 million compared with the year-ago period. That was primarily due to the discontinuation of the American Living brand, sold at J.C. Penney stores, and a planned reduction in shipments to certain European customers.

Sales at its own Ralph Lauren stores rose 7 per cent to $804 million from $752 million a year earlier.

The company expects sales to improve. The company projects revenue to rise by a low single-digit percentage for the current quarter and anywhere from 4 per cent to 7 per cent for the full year.

The company ended the quarter with 388 directly operated stores — 116 Ralph Lauren stores, 50 Club Monaco stores and 213 Polo factory stores. The company also operated 494 concession shop locations worldwide at the end of the quarter. In addition to company-operated locations, international licensing partners operated 62 Ralph Lauren stores and 32 dedicated shops as well as 64 Club Monaco stores and shops at the end of the fourth quarter.

Shares fell 2.3 per cent, or $4.37 per share, to close at $183.69 Thursday.