If you’re in Manhattan and happen to feel the need for a polo shirt – make that a Polo shirt - coming on, pretty soon you won’t be able to pick one up at the Ralph Lauren fancy-arse flagship store on Fifth Avenue. It’ll be closing in another week or so.
This won’t bother me any. The Ralph Lauren items in my closet number two: a turquoise and white striped long-sleeved cotton shirt that I got at Marshall’s a couple of years ago, and a turquoise cardigan (okay, I’m color consistent) I picked up when Filene’s was going out of business in 2011.
Way, way, way back, I owned a few polo shirts, which I mostly wore under sweaters. But when I did wear them solo – I swear to God – I never did the collar-up thing. Just flat out not preppy enough for that particular look.
The entire Ralph Lauren schtick – all those vacant looking perfect- family blonds (with, in a nod to diversity, with the occasional dark-haired/dark complected “friend” thrown in). All those perfect-teethers, with nary a book in sight nor a thought in anyone’s head beyond how damned perfect everyone looks. All sitting around at impossible angles in white Adirondack chairs on the perfect green lawn of some ocean-front Long Island estate. It’s always been a bit too WASP-envy for my taste. (Not that I wouldn’t mind being a perfect-looking blonde lounging around in an Adirondack chair waiting for my yacht – or at least my sailboat – to come in. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I wouldn’t want to be around all that many perfect-looking blondes all wearing the the same navy blue and madras outfits. Or be one of them. I’d have to change my name to Mimsy or something. Plus wear a headband.)
Ralph Lauren isn’t the only retailer hurting, up and down the economic scale. Payless Shoes is closing stores, and filing for bankruptcy to boot. (To shoe?) J. Crew is in trouble. Gymboree.
The rise of e-commerce has left many fighting for survival. Consumers have gotten used to discounts. And an address on Manhattan’s luxury showcase isn’t what it used to be. Tourism is down, rents are too damn high and it doesn’t help that security surrounding the Northern White House, down the block, has diverted foot traffic. Fifth Avenue vacancy rates are hovering near an all-time high, according to Cushman & Wakefield Inc.(Source: Bloomberg)
(NYC voted overwhelming for Hillary Clinton, 79 percent HRC to 19 percent Trump, so maybe there’s no interest on the part of the Job Creator in Chief in creating jobs for New Yorkers. If only there were veins of coal running under Fifth Avenue…)
In addition to the general retail sector problems, Ralph Lauren has some particular ones. The look of their stores – there are two in Boston, and I’ve glanced in the window when passing by – are old-school and fussy. They look like you’ll be issued a smoking jacket (men) or string of add-a-pearls (women) on your way in. Fuddy, meet duddy.
Similar brands have done more to appeal to hip and happening young folks. Take Burberry which, as far as I know, still outfits the Queen, but has also gone a bit edgier and more youth-oriented. None of this silk scarf tied under the chin for them!
Coach – on the pocketbook front – has long had a rather sturdy, expensive, and boring appeal. But they’ve kipped things up over the years as well. In Manhattan, not far from the soon-to-be-shuttered RL store, Coach’s:
…store entrance has two mechanized conveyor belts with a rotation of its colorful handbags and jackets. The center atrium holds a 12-foot sculpture of a dinosaur made with the company’s leather bags.
Ralph Lauren will be putting more of its focus on eCommerce, and looking at trendier concepts for the stores that it keeps open.
But they’ll need more than a dinosaur made up of sweaters. For starters, they should probably avoid any dinosaur images. And they might want to look for some trendier clothing styles while they’re at it.
Me, neither. Even if I were a perfect blonde, lolling around Amagansett in my Adirondack chair.