Categories Consumer, Earnings Call Transcripts

Ralph Lauren Corporation (RL) Q1 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

RL Earnings Call - Final Transcript

Ralph Lauren Corporation  (NYSE: RL) Q1 2023 earnings call dated Aug. 09, 2022

Corporate Participants:

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

Jane Nielsen — Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer


Jay Sole — UBS Securities — Analyst

Michael Binetti — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Matthew Boss — JP Morgan — Analyst

Dana Telsey — Telsey Advisory Group — Analyst

Omar Saad — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Christopher Nardone — Bank of America- Merrill Lynch — Analyst



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Ralph Lauren First Quarter Fiscal Year 2023 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions].

I’d now like to turn over the conference to our host, Ms. Corinna Van der Ghinst. Please go ahead.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Good morning and thank you for joining Ralph Lauren’s first quarter fiscal 2023 conference call. With me today are Patrice Louvet, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer and Jane Nielsen, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer. After prepared remarks, we will open up the call for your questions [Operator Instructions].

During today’s call, we will be making some forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including our financial outlook. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees and our actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. Our expectations contain many risks and uncertainties, principal risks and uncertainties that could cause our results to differ materially from our current expectations are detailed in our SEC filings. To find disclosures and reconciliations of non-GAAP measures that we use when discussing our financial results, you should refer to this morning’s earnings release and to our SEC filings that can be found on our Investor Relations website.

And with that, I’ll turn the call over to Patrice.

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Cory. Good morning everyone and thank you for joining today’s call. Our strong first quarter performance underscores the resilience and momentum of our business around the world. This follows our significant multi-year reset to transform our consumer base, product portfolio and distribution. These results also validate the strong confidence that Ralph and I have in our teams, who are consistently executing with incredible dedication and agility through what continues to be uncertain times. We exceeded our expectations again on both the top and bottom line with broad based strength across all three regions, despite macro headwinds from COVID and inflationary pressures in the quarter.

Our teams are driving increasing desirability for our brands and products, enabling high quality consumer recruitment as well as retention. Our proven ability to drive a strong value proposition for our consumer, which has strengthened over the last four years of our strategic plan, is an important advantage for Ralph Lauren, especially through times of macro uncertainty. We are obviously highly attentive to the volatility highlighted recently by our retail peers across the price spectrum. And while we are not immune to broader macro headwinds, we remain focused on what we can control. We have many areas of strength that include a powerful differentiated brand that we continue to invest in. A strong core business that is resilient through challenging cycles, a more flexible expense structure, the diversified global supply chain with proven agility and discipline in our inventory management, and a robust balance sheet, which enables us to make the right decisions for the long-term health of our business.

And while we continue to adapt to shifting macro developments, this strong foundation gives us confidence as we drive our business across multiple engines of long-term growth. These include, first continuing to drive brand heat and desirability. Second, leveraging our luxury [Indecipherable] and unique multi-category lifestyle proposition, where we can dial certain product categories up or down as consumer needs evolve. And third, rolling out our key city ecosystem strategy led by digital.

We are balancing these priorities with our ongoing focus on productivity, an important driver to fuel our top and bottom line growth. In [Indecipherable] everything we do is our commitment to deliver a positive impact in the world across citizenship and sustainability. Our first quarter performance was a strong example of our progress across each of these areas. Let me take you through a few of our first quarter highlights across these strategic pillars of our Next Great Chapter plan.

First, on our efforts to win over a new generation, in the current operating environment, we remain focused on investing in our brand to deliver a clear, differentiated message to our target consumers. Our multifaceted marketing strategy is focused on leveraging our core brand values to connect authentically with consumers, strengthening existing relationships and recruiting new and younger high-value consumers around the world. This was particularly evident in the first quarter, where we continue to focus our investments on driving brand desirability across a diverse range of activities.

First, we kicked off the 50th-anniversary celebration of our iconic Polo shirt this spring, with a 360-degree campaign and book launch across our stores, social media and celebrity moments, which we amplified globally. While our business is so much more than a Polo shirt, this icon is a testament to the unique emotional connection consumers have with our brand, across ages, genders, and geographies.

You may have seen our dynamic billboards in the heart of Seoul [Phonetic], Paris, London and LA. We also launched a limited edition vintage Polo collection in stores and our latest sustainable Earth Polo. We invited our fans throughout the world to share touching personal stories about their memories with the Polo shirt on social media. As consumers increasingly value brands that are timeless and authentic, we continue to weave Ralph Lauren into the fabric of modern culture around the world.

Similarly, we celebrated the optimism and perseverance of sport through our 17th Annual sponsorship of the Wimbledon Championships, inspired by our timeless spectator style, this year’s new uniforms combine the heritage of our brand with modern silhouettes and fabrications, including the use of recycled materials. And we continue to capture key brand moments that resonate with fashion lovers around the world, including our Gilded Glamour addressing at this year’s Met Gala.

Friends of the brand like Alicia Keys in her [Indecipherable] to the New York City skyline with husband Swiss beats, Ryan Reynolds and Jay Bhavan channeling old Hollywood, and the always daring Janelle Monet were all featured in our brand. These activations attracted younger full-price consumers to our business, driving another quarter of strong top-line growth. New consumers on our digital sites grew nearly 70% to pre-pandemic levels and our online search trends grew high teens to last year in Q1, led by our Polo shirt and spring luxury campaigns, significantly outperforming our peers globally.

Touching on our second key initiative, energize core products and accelerate high potential under-developed categories. Ralph and our design teams continue to deliver the products consumers are craving in this moment, with broad-based strength across our range of luxury lifestyle categories. People are coming together again with a renewed appetite for style from a fresh approach to wear-to-work, to weddings and other social gatherings, our brand is uniquely positioned to capture this mix of sophisticated and casual dressing.

Product highlights this quarter included our global Polo shirt campaign, which drove strong performance across a range of styles from our [Indecipherable] to our seasonal prints and novelty offerings. The strong trend was reinforced by the introduction of our upcycle polo shirts, celebrating the timeless quality and consumers’ emotional connection to this iconic style. Our Kobal [Phonetic] Hill collection for Polo men’s, which celebrates our sophisticated sportswear in the modern wardrobe.

And our Athletic Club collection bringing Classic tennis and golf-inspired styling to the next generation was a stand-out for the season. With strong sales in lightweight sporting windbreakers, rugby shirts, and fleece in classic combinations of white and dark cream. From our clean summer whites to our colorful classics, Ralph Lauren embody the exuberance of a return to head-to-toe dressing at its best.

Shifting gears to our third key initiative, drive targeted expansion in our regions and channels. We continued our long-term strategy of investing in our key city ecosystems around the world in the first quarter with a focus on elevating our touch points with the consumer across every channel. During the quarter, we opened more than 60 new stores and concessions in top cities globally. Nearly all of our store openings were in Asia and notably the Chinese mainland, where our brand momentum and opportunities remain strong despite transitory COVID lockdowns.

Following our first two emblematic store openings last year in Beijing and Shanghai, we opened a third emblematic concept in Chengdu, another key city cluster, which also included our first restaurant and bar in China, reinforcing our Lifestyle offering in the market. And while roughly 50% of our China stores were negatively impacted by COVID closures in the quarter, driving mainland sales down to 10% last year in constant currency, we continued to reinforce our elevated brand positioning in the market.

Our 520 and 618 Festival performances outpaced our closest peers by double digits while we also increased our penetration of full-price sales. We remain confident in our long-term growth trajectory in China with strong brand momentum and an encouraging recovery and performance as COVID-related store restrictions were lifted in late June as expected. We continue to watch our key markets carefully including the ongoing impact of COVID variance.

Moving to our priority of leading with digital, we’ve made significant progress over the last four years in repositioning our digital business, putting it on the path of strong margin accretive growth that is outpacing total company growth. This progress is underscored by our recent ranking in the luxury Digital IQ Index for 2022, where we were proud to rank number two among 75 global luxury retailers, up from number five last year.

First quarter sales for our total Ralph Lauren digital ecosystem, including our directly operated sites, department, pure players in social commerce grew mid-single digits in constant currency. This was on top of an exceptionally strong compare of more than 80% last year and about 85% growth in first quarter fiscal 2021. Within our own Ralph Lauren digital sites, sales grew high single digits in the first quarter. We continue to drive strong full-price selling as we deliver the right mix of products and invest in AI-powered targeting and high-quality new consumer acquisition. We also launched new localized digital commerce sites to support our ecosystem expansion globally. This includes the 21 sites launched in Europe in fiscal 2022 and new sites added in the first quarter in India and Israel.

Our Asia digital ecosystem once again drove the fastest growth globally over a smaller base of more than 60% in constant currency the last year. This was led by triple-digit growth in Korea and 40% growth in China, where our digital businesses outperformed peers and the broader market, despite disrupted supply chains in Shanghai and shipment restrictions on non-essential goods. We were also encouraged by early performance in our Australia digital flagship, which we launched at the end of Q4.

Moving to our work to operate with discipline to fuel growth. Our teams have operated with incredible agility to mitigate emerging macro challenges delivering operating margins ahead of our expectations in the first quarter despite increased cost headwinds. In June, we published our timeless by design, global citizenship and sustainability report outlining our commitment to address our impact.

Why I encourage you all to download the report from our website, Let me highlight a couple of exciting initiatives. First, we officially announced our first Cradle to Cradle certified product with our iconic luxury Kashmir sweater launching later this fiscal year. With more C2C products to come and we’re kicking off our live-on promise to enable our past and future products to live on responsibly by 2013. In addition, we were proud to recently be named one of Parity.Org’s Best Companies for Women to advance for the third year in a row, as we further our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

In closing, our company has weathered a variety of macro environments over the last 55 years, not to mention the last three, with our organization emerging stronger and more agile than ever before. Ralph and I are incredibly proud of the passion and execution our teams have demonstrated throughout, all while staying true to the values that have made this brand revered and emotionally connected since its inception.

And I am confident that the healthy foundations we’ve put into place along with our multiple engines of growth will enable us to continue driving towards our commitments of long-term value creation. As always, we remain keenly focused on what we can control and are executing at our long-term strategic initiatives while continuing to navigate an uncertain global environment. We look forward to sharing more with you at our Investor Day next month. And before I turn it over to Jane, I’d like to welcome Deb Cupp, who joined our Board of Directors last week, currently, the President of Microsoft North America, she will bring an important perspective to our digital acceleration and more. Ralph and I would also like to thank parting Director Judith McHale, who has served on our Board since 2001 for many years of leadership and dedication to the company.

With that, I’ll hand it to Jane to discuss our financial results and I’ll join her at the end, to answer your questions.

Jane Nielsen — Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Patrice and good morning everyone. Our first quarter results demonstrate the broad-based strength of our strategic plan, the durability of our business model and the execution excellence of our teams in the face of challenges and disruptions around the world. Our pivot to often showed in our top-line growth with Q1 revenues up 8% on a reported basis and 13% in constant currency, above pre-pandemic levels and more than 500 basis points above our outlook. This was supported by positive growth across all three regions, despite lapping our final quarter of major distribution resets and COVID-related shutdowns in China.

Operating profit dollars also grew versus pre-pandemic levels with continued operating expense discipline helping to mitigate transitory cost pressures. And we achieved all of this while continuing to drive important investments in marketing digital, new stores and people. We believe our elevated brand-focused strategy and targeted investments we combined with our culture of operating discipline and fortress balance sheet gives us a position of strength to continue to drive long-term value creation through uncertain times.

Let me take you through our first quarter financial highlights. Total company revenues up 13% in constant currency, significantly outperformed our outlook. Results included roughly four points of negative impact from our divestiture of Club Monaco and licensing of our North American Chaps brand last year implying even stronger underlying growth. Ralph Lauren’s digital ecosystem sales grew mid-single digits in constant currency on top of more than 80% growth last year. Our owned Ralph Lauren digital sites grew high single-digits on top of last year’s 49% compare, reflecting our compelling product assortments, new consumer acquisition and user-friendly connected retail capabilities.

Digital margins remain strongly accretive to our profitability in the quarter. Total company adjusted gross margin was 68%, down 180 basis points to last year on a reported basis and 80 basis points in constant currency. First quarter AUR was up 8% on top of 18% growth last year. Solid AUR momentum was more than offset by higher-than-anticipated freight spend which help support our strong spring on-time delivery rates and full-price selling to deliver revenue outperformance in the quarter. Compared to fiscal 2020 pre-pandemic levels, gross margin was 350 basis points higher in the first quarter. We continue to expect freight, raw materials and labor costs to pressure gross margins this year, particularly through Q2 until we start to lap higher cost increases in the second half of the year. We plan to leverage our multi-pronged elevation strategy to continue driving AUR in order to mitigate mid to high single-digit product cost inflation this year.

Adjusted operating margin was 12.7%, down 410 basis points on a reported basis and 270 basis points in constant currency. As we normalize spending versus unusually low levels last year due to COVID. This was ahead of our outlook, driven by strong operating expense discipline and productivity initiatives. Adjusted operating expenses increased 13% to 55.2% of sales, including marketing expense growth of about 40% over last year’s lower spend.

Marketing was 7% of sales at the high end of our guidance of 6% to 7% for the full year. While we have built increased flexibility across our operating expense structure, we remain committed to investing in our brand, which is driving both near-term, top-line momentum and share gains, as well as longer-term brand equity.

Moving to segment performance. Starting with North America, the region’s improved trajectory continues with first quarter revenues up 6%. These results included about 3 points of headwind from our licensing of Chaps, implying even stronger underlying growth. Q1 represents the final quarter of meaningful headwinds from our North America strategic resets. In North America retail, comps increased 5% to last year led by double-digit growth in our full-price stores. Performance was driven by improved traffic, larger basket sizes and 12% AUR growth on top of 39% last year, reflecting our ongoing elevation around product mix, marketing and more targeted pricing and promotions.

Foreign tourist sales continued to show sequential improvement, but we’re still below pre-pandemic levels. Our premium position helped our outlet channel deliver positive comp growth in the quarter. However, growth was more modest than in our full-price business. We attribute this partially to higher cost pressures and weaker consumer sentiment among value-oriented shoppers across the marketplace. We are rolling out a number of interventions. These include leveraging our AI-driven targeted communications, accelerating new ways of selling to support conversion, expediting shipments of core products that are selling well and more. We will continue to watch this channel carefully given ongoing macro headwinds and have embedded increased caution in our current fiscal 2023 outlook.

Comps in our owned site grew 2% on top of a strong percent compared last year, supported by solid demand for our products and ability to retain newly acquired consumers. In North America wholesale revenues increased 5% to last year, significantly above the results of our expectations. Results included about 8 points of negative impact from licensing chaps. This outperformance was driven by our full-price wholesale business reflecting our improved brand positioning in the channel. Sell-out grew mid-teens to last year on better than expected spring fill rates and enhanced marketing.

Our AUR wholesale also grew double-digits to last year as we further elevated product, pull-back promotions and increased targeted communications. We are winning with the consumer with continued market share gains in men’s, women’s and kids in our key partners. Inventory growth was also broadly aligned with sell-out. While we are watching macro developments carefully we continue to be strongly encouraged by our healthy foundation and broad-based momentum across North America, setting the path for long-term growth.

Moving on to Europe. First quarter revenues increased 17% on a reported basis and 28% in constant currency. Retail comps increased 34%, brick and mortar store comps grew 45% to last year, where approximately 15% of our stores were closed along with further heavy restrictions from the Delta variant. Digital commerce comps grew 7% on top of a 98% compared last year when widespread COVID closures shifted a disproportionate share of business online. Europe wholesale exceeded our expectations again this quarter, up 8% on a reported basis and 20% in constant currency driven by stronger fall bookings and fill rates, re-order trends and sustained growth with our digital pure plays.

Turning to Asia, revenues increased 16% on a reported basis and 26% in constant currency. Asia retail comps grew 19% on top of a 43% compared last year, with digital commerce increasing 37% and brick and mortar stores up 17%. We maintained strong momentum across our total digital ecosystem in the region with more than 60% growth this quarter. This was supported by double-digit increases across our own sites and wholesale digital businesses.

By market, first quarter sales in Japan improved sequentially to 32% in constant currency, following last quarter’s Omicron restrictions. This represents a double-digit increase to pre-pandemic levels in fiscal 2020. Strong momentum also continued in Korea, where sales grew 30% in the quarter. And both our Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia grew double and triple digits in the period respectively. Our broad-based performance helped to offset strict COVID lockdowns in the Chinese mainland this quarter, where total sales declined 10% in constant currency due to store closures.

Based on our strong return to positive sales growth from late June onward, we remain optimistic about the resilience of the Chinese consumer and our continued brand momentum in the market. And while we continue to manage through COVID disruptions, including recent lockdowns in Macau and Hong Kong, our teams are driving offense across our other key markets to deliver strong double-digit growth.

Moving on to the balance sheet. Our balance sheet continues to be a source of strength, enabling us to balance strategic investments in our brand and business with returning cash to shareholders, even through dynamic times. During the first quarter, we returned approximately $260 million to shareholders in the form of our dividend and share repurchases. We also paid down $500 million in debt that matured in June to end the quarter with $1.8 billion in cash and short-term investments and $1.1 billion in total debt. This compared to $3 billion in cash in short-term investments and $1.6 billion in total debt last year. Net inventory increased 47%.

Similar to the previous quarter this growth is to support strong demand for our brand and products, a deliberate increase in goods in transit as we take inventory earlier to help mitigate supply chain delays, particularly in wholesale, increased product costs including freight and cotton, which we will start to lap in the second half of fiscal 2023 and continued elevation of our product mix. Based on these trends, we expect inventory to remain at similar levels through holiday, becoming more closely aligned to sales by the end of the fiscal year.

We are managing inventory very carefully in this dynamic environment, in order to satisfy robust consumer demand, while maintaining our long-term quality of sales trajectory. This includes leveraging our strong core and replenishment business, which has greater supply chain visibility and shorter lead times to effectively flex up or down as needed with demand, as we did most recently through the pandemic.

Looking ahead, our outlook is based on the evolving macro environment including inflationary pressures, disruptions in the global supply chain, COVID-19 foreign currency volatility and the war in Ukraine. We continue to plan across a range of scenarios and this guidance represents our best assessment of market conditions and resulting consumer impacts. For fiscal 2023, we are maintaining our full-year outlook in constant currency, with revenues expected to increase high single digits centering on 8% on a 52-week comparable basis. Based on unfavorable spot rates, however, foreign currency is expected to negatively impact revenue growth by approximately 600 basis points.

As a reminder, we still expect fiscal 2023 growth to also be negatively impacted by about 100 basis points due to the absence of last year’s 53rd week. In addition to the factors we outlined last quarter, including FX, softer consumer sentiment in Europe and Q1 China COVID lockdowns, our updated full-year outlook also incorporates increased caution around our value-oriented consumers in North America, notably, the potential for softer traffic and conversion rates through the end of the year. That said, we are reiterating our full-year revenue outlook based on our strong Q1 outperformance and diversified engines of growth.

We still expect operating margin in the range of 14% to 14.5% in constant currency. Foreign currency is now expected to negatively impact operating margin by approximately 180 basis points. This compares to operating margin of 13.1% on a 52-week basis and 13.4% on a 53-week basis last year, both on a reported basis. Gross margin is still expected to increase 30 basis points to 50 basis points on a constant currency 52-week basis. We plan to continue driving stronger AUR and favorable product mix, more than offsetting increased freight and material costs. Foreign currency is expected to negatively impact gross margins by about 150 basis points in fiscal 2023. We still expect gross margin contraction in the first half of the year due to increased freight pressures to meet demand. This is followed by gross margin expansion in the second half of the year as we start to lap the significant input cost increases.

For the second quarter, we expect constant currency revenue growth in a range centering on 11%. Foreign currency is expected to negatively impact revenue growth by approximately 750 basis points. We expect second quarter operating margin in a range of 15.4% to 15.7% in constant currency, reflecting increased headwinds from higher freight and marketing expense, which are expected to normalize in the second half of the year. Foreign currency is expected to negatively impact operating margins by about 240 basis points in the quarter. Second quarter gross margin is expected to contract about 40 basis points to 80 basis points in constant currency with further AUR growth more than offset by increased freight and product cost. Foreign currency is expected to negatively impact gross margins by about 190 basis points in the quarter. We still expect our tax rate in the range of 25% to 26% for the full year and also for the second quarter. We continue to expect CapEx of about $290 million to $310 million.

In closing, we delivered another strong quarter, inspired by Ralph’s creative vision coupled with the agility, dedication and relentless execution of our teams, all are continuing to navigate a volatile global operating environment. While staying grounded in the macro developments, we remain confident in our multiple engines of growth. We are laser focused on what we can control, strengthening our consumer base, enhancing the desirability of our timeless brand and maintaining operating discipline across our business.

And with that, let’s open up the call for your questions.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] The first question comes from Jay Sole with UBS Securities.

Jay Sole — UBS Securities — Analyst

Great, thank you so much. Now my question is the global operating environment appears to be getting more challenging from inflation and big [Phonetic] consumer segment. Just to a more intense promotional stance on some of your peers, so what gives you confidence that you are better positioned versus your peers to continue driving offense and deliver growth in this kind of environment, and particularly in Europe?

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Jay. Well, thank you for your question. Yes, it has been a more challenging operating environment and as you heard us talk about in the prepared remarks, we do expect more choppiness ahead given the various macro signals. But we still have strong confidence in our game plan and in our ability to navigate and execute successfully through this choppiness. As you know well, we’ve been repositioning this company for the past four years to establish a very strong broad foundation with multiple engines of growth ahead.

And I’ll highlight four clear sustainable advantages. The first one is an iconic lifestyle brand, with consumer metrics like this, our ability that are improving in every market as you know, we track our brand perception in our top seven markets monthly and we continue to see strengthening across the board and we have millions of consumers joining our brand every year, this past quarter we had 1.3 million consumers join us on top of over 5 million last year.

The second element is the unique breadth of our product offering. We’re really the only brand that can credibly offer categories from sneakers to [Indecipherable], which means we have the ability to dial up and dial down specific elements based on consumer demand and desire.

The third is a clear and regionally balanced go-to-market strategy so that even if one region is adversely affected we’re diversified across market and can offset in other parts of the world. And I think we’ve also proven our ability to rebound quickly as recently demonstrated again in China, where you saw that we were able to deliver strong performance given half of our stores were closed for the majority of the quarter.

And the fourth area I would call out is a diversified and agile supply chain, there has been work that has been going on for the five plus years to really establish that, and that has proven to be both a huge asset and a major competitive advantage for us as we navigate this [Indecipherable] work. And supporting all of this work, we have an organization that is engaged that has fully embraced operational discipline as you’ve seen with our continued margin expansion versus pre-pandemic levels.

So net-net, I would say we’re staying in touch, of course, with what’s happening and while we’re not immune to macro pressures. We are staying focused on the medium and long-term direction of the company. If I had to sum up, where our current position is in three words. I would say offense, agility and pragmatic. Offense, to maintain and fuel our momentum. Agility, as we face a continually volatile operating environment. And pragmatic in choiceful about where we use our resources to ensure we continue to build our brand and our market position for the long term.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you. Next question, please.


Thank you. The next question comes from Michael Binetti with Credit Suisse.

Michael Binetti — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Hi guys, thanks for taking my questions here. I guess [Technical Issues] I meant in guidance for the year with the topline and the bottom line despite the currency movements here. Maybe just some of the puts and takes around how you were able to hold the guidance on the top and the bottom. And then, I just want to circle up on Jane, it looks like are bracing for a little bit tougher trend potentially in the North America outlets. Can you speak to what August looks like in direct to the consumer or anything that’s fueling your concerns? Are you seeing a slowdown now or is it something you’re just anticipating?

Jane Nielsen — Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Thanks, Michael. We were pleased with the performance this quarter and it really helped us to maintain our full-year constant currency guidance in the context of a lot of macro choppiness out there. And as you would expect, we’re actively scenario planning around the consumer and I’ll get to your value consumer at the end, but I did want to just walk you through some of the puts and takes on the guide for fiscal 2023.

First on the top line, really our positive performance trends in international gave us some flexibility on the full year as both Europe and Asia came in stronger than we initially expected back in May. China was largely locked down as Patrice mentioned in Q1, but was offset by the strength in other countries, Korea, Japan and Australia, all performed extremely strongly through the quarter, so we were very pleased with that. And Europe also trended well despite the known political and consumer macro headwinds there. So we’re pleased with Europe through the quarter and had been cautious entering the year.

And while we see North America on a nice healthy mid-single digit growth trajectory, we are adding some additional caution around the value-oriented consumer. This really speaks to the inflationary headwinds and weaker consumer sentiment that’s out there. We’re not naive about what’s happening to that consumer from a macro standpoint and wanted to make sure that we were building that in overall.

And I say that for the guidance, this all speaks to our diversified engines of growth and gives us confidence in continuing our strategy despite a more uncertain environment. And our margins clearly we’re managing through cost inflation that we’ve communicated over the last several quarters. But there are some signs of relief on the horizon, I don’t think still impact fiscal 2023, but given we’ve got proven pricing strategies, we’ve re-engineered many aspects of our cost structure and we are laser-focused on ROI. We feel pretty balanced on our margin guidance at this point.

So in terms of the second part of your question and around the value-oriented consumers, we think that we are watching the macro developments carefully in Q1 was solid. As you saw, we had positive comps in factory, but we saw outperformance in our full-price stores as that consumer remained healthy and robust. And so with that disparity, which has been happening over the past five quarters, so this is not anything new, but given that disparity, we thought it was prudent given what’s happening with that consumer externally to take a more crop cautious approach in the back half, notably on that consumer. So we feel good about where we’re at. We feel about good means maintaining our full-year guidance, and I do think we’ve really risked the back half of it with that — with some caution around that value consumer.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you. Next question, please. Angela.


Thank you. The next question comes from Matthew Boss with JPMorgan.

Matthew Boss — JP Morgan — Analyst

Great, thanks. So Patrice on the multi-year foundational initiatives that you walked through and that you’ve put in place, when do you believe, you saw the inflection in the organization that for this year supports your reiterated 8% constant currency top-line forecast and that’s despite the dynamic macro backdrop, but then also how do you see these initiatives as accretive multi-year, if we’re thinking about your sustainable top-line plan, which I think in the past with cemented in the low-to-mid single digits.

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, good morning, Matt. Thanks for your questions. Listen, I think let’s take it by region on the first part of your question, generally, our business has been on a very strong trajectory in APAC for years, all right? And that’s really where a lot of the concepts that we’ve expanded across other regions have originated. The work on the ecosystem, the work on brand elevation, the work on AUR growth, we then took that to Europe. I would say 18 months to 24 months ago and we’ve seen the benefit of that play out and you saw another very strong performance this past quarter in Europe, and what as Jane described was a pretty volatile environment.

And then as far as North America is concerned, we had a lot of resetting to do to get the business on healthy foundations both from a consumer targeting standpoint bringing in a younger, more elevated consumer from a product standpoint, focusing disproportionately on more elevated proposition, from a go-to-market standpoint resetting our wholesale distribution completely transforming our digital operations. Most of that is now in place Matt. So I think as we’ve started this fiscal year we’re lapping a couple elements Chaps, licensing Club Monaco sale but all in all, I think the entire organization is now in execution mode relative to the strategy that we’re applying across all of the regions.

We do expect, as I mentioned, in response to Jay’s question, these building blocks to be sustained for many years. Right. If you think about the elements that we have a brand that just keeps getting stronger and stronger every quarter that goes by and this isn’t just me saying it, this is the consumer telling us that in the tracking that we do on a monthly basis, it’s getting stronger and awareness, it’s getting stronger on brand consideration, it’s getting stronger on that promoter score, our luxury perception is increasing, actually the scores were very strong in North America this past quarter. Thanks for the other good work, our marketing teams are doing there. Our product portfolio, both our core, which is going to be particularly helpful as we navigate, this continued uncertainty and it’s proven to be a real strength for this company during more difficult times.

Is coupled with high growth categories where we are seeing momentum acceleration and I really expect that this will continue for quite some time, whether that’s the focus on women’s, whether that is focus on outerwear and others. And then our key city ecosystem which is very focused on top 30 cities frankly is still a lot of white space and as we continue to strengthen these ecosystems, we’re seeing consumer response that we are really pleased with. We talked about in the prepared remarks, the opening, we just did in Chengdu that establishes brands presence in another key influential area of China and we’re going to be activating the full ecosystem as we’ve done in other key cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

But we’re also doing that now in North America. So looking at contracts. Looking at continued volatility, which I think if you just reflect on the past few years is I think the new normal for our generation right now. These elements are sustainable and they are real competitive advantages and we will continue to sharpen this [Indecipherable] better and better as time goes by. But I expect these to drive momentum for us for a while.

Jane Nielsen — Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think there are few pivotal moments that we’ve seen, as we really started to develop multiple engines of growth through the post-pandemic period. One was as China came back after and we’ve pivoted to extensive digital growth, we continued digital growth and saw a big acceleration in comp. So that was, I think a pivotal moment for us in APAC.

In Europe as we went into the pandemic, you saw very strong e-commerce growth that was based on new consumer acquisition at higher operating margins. I think that was a pivotal moment in Europe and then in North America. Starting in Q4 of 2021, our sell-out went positive in wholesale has maintained positive along with share gains and pricing increases and at the same time, we started to really move having reset our business in RL and you saw a nice growth and part and big margin movements in ROE in North America. I think that Q4 2021 was also a pivotal moment. And those all give us confidence in the pivot to strong positive growth that we’re guiding to this year.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you. Next question.


Thank you. The next question comes from Dana Telsey with Telsey Advisory Group.

Dana Telsey — Telsey Advisory Group — Analyst

Hi, good morning everyone. Nice to see the progress. Jane, you just mentioned what I was thinking about is wholesale and the pickup in strength in wholesale that you’ve been seeing across the board. How do you think about that is different drivers in each region, is there different reasons for each? Is it the refurbishment of the in-store shops in terms of what you’ve been saying? And then to pick up on that, on your 30 key cities retail store network, where are you in that redevelopment? Thank you.

Jane Nielsen — Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Hi Dana, it is a story that’s different across the different regions. In North America wholesale, you’ll recall, this has been a long-term strategy. So I think the first stage was really getting out of about two-thirds of our doors and really elevating to the higher end of the doors with our wholesale partners, that was step one. Step two was working with our partners, even in the year — more than a year in advance of the pandemic to say we are going to take pricing.

We’re going to take pricing in partnership with you, we started to do that in FY 2021, have improved it in our own stores. And that’s been a real pivotal moment, our inventories were clean we prepared for it, we had the momentum in the market in our own stores and we pivoted to what you’re seeing this quarter, which is double-digit growth on a mid-teens sell-out, so very positive dynamic that really had the groundwork laid many years ago and that was pivotal the partnership with our wholesale partners has never been stronger.

We’ve moved into this strategy together, we were prepared for it, and so we’re moving in partnership. And of course we’re reinvesting in those wholesale doors, not just in North America, but also in Europe and I think the strength in Europe has come from, we were already in very elevated partners and there is a very strong pure-play component, where we have great representation and are gaining share in Europe so strong partnerships in Europe, that we did is, we’ve been doing the strong elevation journey and they’ve been following in that elevation journey with great momentum from our digital pure play partners. In the pure play digital components of our more traditional partners. So very strong and very pleased with the — with our wholesale around the world. Wholesale is a very small portion of the Asia-Pac business, is much more concession oriented.

And our journey on the key cities is really about creating the right ecosystems, which includes every touch point, you saw that in our guidance this year, we expect to open 200 new — net new doors around the world largely in Asia, but also in Europe and North America, those are important pieces of the ecosystem, you’ve seen us open emblematic doors.

The door and Stanley tune the Chengdu door that Patrice talked about. The centres for the ecosystem and the work we’re doing on Wholesale and ROE as we roll out local sites are really an important part of the top 30 key city ecosystems. So we have a proven model.

We’re continuing to roll it out, it goes across every touch point of the consumer, and we’re pleased with our progress and I think you’ll see as we close out this year, we’ll have made — will have another year of good progress there.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you.

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

And then I would add to Jane’s perspective on the top 30 cities. What’s, what’s interesting, particularly when you look at the luxury landscape right now, and it was in a conversation earlier this morning on this topic where you see a number of luxury players pivot from China to the US in terms of investments for us as we look at our top 30 cities are pretty balanced across the three key regions that we operate in and the US still represent significant whitespace opportunity for us. So we’re going to double down on that opportunity. But continue to invest in APAC, continue to invest in Europe, we’ve recently opened a couple of stores in the Berlin area, which is a key iconic cultural City for our brand.

So I think you can expect that to be pretty, it continued to be a broad-based effort across all three key regions for us.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

Next question please.


Thank you. Your next question comes from Omar Saad with Evercore ISI.

Omar Saad — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Thanks for taking my question. Good morning, [Speech Overlap] congrats on our continued success. I wanted to do a quick clarification Jane, did you say the spread between full price and outlets was widening or that was just maintaining the same level. And then I wanted to ask for a little bit more of a detailed response around China, it seems like you guys are putting up really strong numbers there. At a time when others are struggling given the lockdowns, is it fair to say that the brand is at an inflection point in China? And if so why now?

Jane Nielsen — Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So what we said about we said for the last 5 quarters we’ve seen a disparity between our full price comps and our outlet comps. And so as we look ahead, we are I think mindful of what could be coming for the value consumer based on the macros and wanted to embed some caution in our forward guidance for the balance of the year.

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

And when it comes — is there anything else we’re done now? When it comes to China, yes, we’re very pleased with the work that our teams are doing in that market and the performance we are delivering. I don’t know. Omar, that I would talk about inflection point. We are seeing the general pace of growth that is quite healthy and strong, rate digital was up 40% this past quarter in China despite all the delivery challenges because of the lockdowns.

I think if you boil it down to the three key drivers for us. The team is doing a very nice job on the brand front balancing global storytelling, like our recent Polo shirt initiative, along with working with local influencers and local content and messaging and I think that’s really weaving the brand into the local culture in a way that is bringing in more consumers, younger consumers, more elevated consumers.

On the product front, I think the gang is doing a great job curating our global line-up to really make sure that we’re delivering along the — the more elevated expectations of that customer and we’re seeing a really nice balance in men’s and women’s business, It’s actually the more balanced split that we have across the world. And actually, the Chinese market is a great source of inspiration for us as we continue to elevate our product and then we touched on it a couple of times earlier in this call, what the power of the ecosystem, right.

And I actually think there is a virtuous cycle there. As we build capabilities on the digital front as we establish iconic store presence but just consistently builds on itself and get stronger and stronger as time goes by. So listen, we’re not out of touch with the realities of lockdowns and things like that, but we feel like the brand is really nicely positioned in China at this point. It’s something we’re going to continue to invest in and the key for us is to really stay in touch with our local consumer.

Corinna Van der Ghinst — Vice President of Investor Relations

The last question please, Angela.


Thank you. Our final question comes from Christ Nardone with Bank of America.

Christopher Nardone — Bank of America- Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Thanks guys. Good morning and thanks for taking my question.

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning Chris.

Christopher Nardone — Bank of America- Merrill Lynch — Analyst

So you’ve talked so you talked about your ability to pivot categories, depending on the demand environment, can you just talk a little bit more about which categories exceptions, the strongest demand in the most recent months? And then maybe some categories that are either dragging or may have a little bit too much inventory?

Patrice Louvet — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. Sure, Chris. So it’s actually really interesting to see what’s happening with the consumer right now. And we are actually really uniquely positioned to capture the consumers’ evolving wardrobe choices. Because what we’re seeing is a combination of reinvesting in core wardrobes. So specifically that’s products like sweaters or denim and then a pivot towards newness and elevation and sophistication. Right. So the pivot towards newness for us will translate into more elevated Kashmir sweaters for example or a novelty and matching fleet and then you have consumers not going out during the day. Right.

And it’s still early days on that journey and therefore a need for greater outerwear need for greater dresses and needs for greater sports coats and then we’re also seeing more evening activities more going out, so I would say that’s supporting and impacting our overall. Evening wear more dressier parts of the portfolio. So general direction of travel is elevation, greater sophistication, Chris. When I look at categories. There are no categories where we feel we are heavy if I could use that terminology. I think the team has done a nice job, managing inventory across all of these industries out there.

And that’s the result of shorter lead times greater agility greater diversification in our supply chain, but very clearly, we are seeing the consumer pivot towards more sophisticated more elevated product versus what we saw during COVID that was much more athleisure Reliance. All right, thank you for that question Chris.

Well, thank you for joining us today and we look forward to sharing our updated strategic plan with all of you. Mid-September, September 19 until then stay safe and have a great day.


[Operator Closing Remarks]


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