Paris–For the last week, it’s all been about an “American in Paris” as designer Ralph Lauren received the French medal of honor and opened his largest Polo Ralph Lauren store in Europe on Paris’ Boulevard St-Germain.
The 13,000-sqaure-foot store is located in a former historic townhouse and stocks what the company calls “a premier assortment” of Ralph Lauren collections. It is also home to Ralph’s, the first Ralph Lauren restaurant to open in Europe, which is described as “a real American restaurant with an American sensibility.” Fare includes hamburgers (from beef grown on Lauren’s ranch) at $32.50 each, and fried chicken. The company even flew Ralph’s French chef staff to New York so they could learn how to cook authentically American first hand.
The store opening, which was attended by actors Gérard Depardieu, Jean Reno and Kevin Spacey, designer Karl Lagerfeld, and members of the Lauren family, was only the latest in week-long festivities. French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave Lauren the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in recognition of his contribution as a designer, business leader and philanthropist in the fight against cancer. Sarkozy lavished praise on the 70-year-old Lauren, adding “You represent an America we like very much–you and Barack Obama are the American dream.”
The press around Lauren’s Paris visit isn’t the only praise the Polo Ralph Lauren brand is having. Stock market analysts say the brand will be a beneficiary of optimistic retail sales projections this year. Although shares of Polo have lagged its peers year-to-date, they have been “galloping higher in part because of steady sales growth despite the recession.” The stock has ramped up from a 52-week low of $45 on May 13, 2009, to a 52-week high of $91.36 on April 14. Even before the news about rising retail sales came out, some analysts expected the stock to move to higher ground, with some forecasting it could reach $105 in a year.
Polo has about 6,100 retail stores worldwide, and with various licensing agreements its brand has expanded to include fragrance, eyewear, leather goods, jewelry and extensive home-merchandise products. “All told, we believe the Polo Ralph Lauren brand generates about $12 billion at retail worldwide,” says Marie Driscoll, analyst at Standard & Poor’s.