By Aimee Chanthadavong

Ten years after the launch of its US site, clothing retailer Ralph Lauren has launched a UK version of its e-retail website.

The site allows consumers living outside of the US to purchase direct from Ralph Lauren online for the first time.

Charlotte Woods, Verdict Research associate analyst, told Retailbiz that Ralph Lauren’s decision to launch a UK version of its e-retail website is due to high consumer demand for both luxury and online retail within the market.

“This is demonstrated by the solid net revenue increases Ralph Lauren experienced in Europe, during the period March 2009 to April 2010, and the strong revenue growth witnessed by luxury distributors such as Net-A-Porter,” she said.

“The timing of the launch can be attributed to the brand’s completion of its own investigations into the UK market and consumers, which it has lead through the distribution of its product ranges online through wholesale channels.”

According to Verdict Research, luxury brands have historically been reluctant to expand online due to concerns over diluting their brand value, however Ralph Lauren is able to maintain its exclusivity by offering additional services to customers.

The Ralph Lauren UK website provides access to a style guide, with tips on signature Ralph Lauren looks and trends; RL Magazine, the luxury/lifestyle quarterly publication of Ralph Lauren; RL TV, which shows videos of runway footage, sports tips and celebrity interviews; and the Pink Pony Auction, a high price auction in aid of Breast Cancer.

“The best way Ralph Lauren could improve the standard of its online service would be through a more personalised service, ensuring deliveries arrive in premium packaging and by enhancing the convenience of its delivery and returns services by offering customers greater control over deliver times and a courier collection service for return,” Woods said.

Verdict Research predicts that Asia Pacific may be Ralph Lauren’s next online destination.

Research conducted by Datamonitor found that 70 per cent of Australian, 69 per cent of Japanese and 13 per cent of Chinese consumers had shopped online at least once in 2009. Given the 17 per cent increase in Ralph Lauren's net revenue for Asia-Pacific between 2009 and 2010.

 “I don’t think that the issue of maintaining a sense of brand luxury is the main issue preventing Ralph Lauren’s expansion into Asia Pacific. Rather, it is due to the considered approach with which it undertakes new operations wishing first to gain an understanding of the market and its consumers,” Wood said.
“This is a process which Ralph Lauren demonstrated in its UK launch and which it has already begun to embark upon in the Asia Pacific region by firstly assuming control of its operations in eight Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”