RLX turning inward to direct sales and distribution

RLX Ralph Lauren has restructured its approach to sales and distribution by eliminating the company's outside sales force and taking sales in-house. It has also created a distribution strategy that will place RLX into Polo Ralph Lauren full-line stores and will strengthen ties with existing specialty bike, ski and outdoor retailers.
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RLX Ralph Lauren has restructured its approach to sales and distribution by eliminating the company's outside sales force and taking sales in-house. It has also created a distribution strategy that will place RLX into Polo Ralph Lauren full-line stores and will strengthen ties with existing specialty bike, ski and outdoor retailers.

According the Bob Yearick, vice president of RLX Ralph Lauren, this change in strategy is all part of Ralph Lauren's re-energized focus on the business and a desire to expand the company's own retail presence by adding 100 new Ralph Lauren doors over the next three years.

"Mr. Lauren wants to refocus the business to become a real partner with the doors he is already in to ensure that he has a strong presentation that is merchandised in the best way so that it is clear the retailer carrying our brand is important to us and that we are important to them," said Yearick.

Because of the decision to be much more selective -- RLX will be sold in 289 doors divided among specialty outdoor, fitness and ski accounts -- the company no longer needs outside reps and can handle servicing existing accounts in-house Yearick told SNEWS.

In addition, RLX will be integrated into existing Lauren stores depending on the market the stores are in.

"A store in Vail and a store in New York will have a different mix of RLX products with some stronger in ski, others in bike, and others in outdoor," said Yearick.

Despite the move to streamline the retail doors with key accounts and not to actively seek to expand the retail doors offering RLX, the company still plans to show at SIA, Outdoor Retailer, and possibly also at Winter ispo.

"While we are not trying to write a lot of new business, being at trade shows allows us to present the line in a Ralph Lauren environment that helps the retailers carrying our brand to see what the Ralph Lauren story is all about, and in a lot of cases, serves to inspire the retailers to implement that look in their stores," said Yearick.

With the pull back of distribution and sales internally, comes expansion of the resources for RLX as well, with a ramped-up design process and the search for three new spots on the design team.

In addition, Yearick told SNEWS that Lauren is very high on being more proactive in terms of expanding the company's team sponsorships as well as expanding the lines marketing approach.

"Though we are pulling inward from a business sense, outwardly we are going to feel bigger."

Yearick also reaffirmed that RLX is still very much a specialty brand.

"We are very committed to this being a specialty store business, and we will not take RLX to department stores. We view our stores as specialty also and are now taking the logical step of making RLX a more important brand in our own stores than they have been in the past."

SNEWS View: This is a smart move for RLX. Many of the line's designs are high-end and priced accordingly and require not only strong merchandising skills but also strong sales skills to ensure sell-through -- which is why RLX has struggled to get even a limited number of retailers to jump in and play. By focusing on those retailers -- and we'd guess that means around 150 doors at most in addition to Lauren's own stores -- that have the resources, desire and energy to present the RLX products in a special manner, RLX should see strong sales results and, those retailers should realize strong sales and sales-support as well. As for giving the line stronger presence in the company's own stores -- like duh!?

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