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Is it time to reinvent Ralph Lauren?

With the recent announcement that Ralph Lauren is stepping down from his eponymous company after nearly 50 years at the helm, employees, stockholders and the general public will be looking at the international brand with interest to see where the future takes the company. But will this change mean a continuation of what has made them successful or a major re-haul to the iconic brand?

Lauren founded the fashion organisation in 1967, growing the business from a tie retailer to an international brand with close to 500 shops around the world. He has now handed the company to Stefan Larsson, an executive at Gap who has been credited with the revival of their budget brand Old Navy since he took it over in 2012.

But what will this mean for the brand so easily recognisable for its ‘polo’ and ‘big pony’ collections? Well-known companies take a lot of their brand value from their name – Coca Cola, Nike and McDonald’s to name a few. But the Ralph Lauren name is not just an overarching name, it’s his name, and he has been the sole figurehead for the company since its creation 48 years ago.

The reshuffle has come into effect after a 40% fall in shares over the past year, suggesting that Lauren and the rest of the executive board are considering major changes to alter the fortunes of the company. Lauren will remain involved with the company, but by handing over the reins to Larsson, it indicates a ‘changing of the guard’ – which could mean a complete rebrand of Ralph Lauren.

Ralph Lauren is famed for their upmarket apparel, targeting those with a greater disposable income. But with the rise in popularity of budget retailers, no doubt in part due to the economic downturn of a few years ago, it may be time for the high-end brand to widen their market. And considering the success that Larsson had with the budget Old Navy collection at Gap, it may not be as far-fetched as it first seems.

A CEO change always leads to questions regarding the of a company, but when it’s for a company that has had one sole figurehead since creation it’s indicative of a large overhaul in terms of their leadership and how they’re viewed by the public. Larsson’s appointment as CEO suggests a positive response from the company to flagging shares, and if he can implement similar success to the company as he did to Gap then it could well prove a catalyst for change within Ralph Lauren.

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