After eight years in business and lackluster profits, Ralph Lauren Corp. plans to axe its Rugby diffusion line to focus instead on growing its core labels.
Launched in 2004, Rugby's aesthetic was first inspired by the rich heritage of rugby, crew and cricket, but successive collections left customers confused. Enter one of Rugby’s 14 stores, and it resembled an expensive Abercrombie & Fitch, and pieces often resembled Ralph Lauren’s Polo designs, further confusing customers looking for a distinction. The brand was aimed at young men and women, but sold hoodies for $100 and suits for $600, and it was never clear why the sport's name was used - history? ruggedness? elitism?
In the end, it was the inability to secure and cultivate a customer base that was Rugby’s undoing. As the years passed, Rugby relied on the reinvigorated prep style and urban “Geezer Style” to garner moderate growth, but the customer base that Rugby needed was never realized.
After opening their first Rugby stores, Polo Ralph Lauren filed a lawsuit against Rugby America and other rugby outfitters in an attempt to prevent them from using the world rugby on their clothing. Ralph Lauren overstepped their bounds, however, and eventually had to backtrack when it became clear they had not used the Rugby trademark as much as they claimed. Eventually, after a long and dogged legal fight led by Jim Carlberg, the US District Court of Southern New York dismissed all of Polo’s claims against rugby-related defendants with prejudice, which meant they can never sue those defendants every again.
It was a massive blow, and despite the attempt to keep the Rugby brand going, Ralph Lauren announced
in their second quarter earnings that they planned on closing the brand to focus on their more profitable brands and emerging markets.
“This was not an easy decision to make, considering the hard work of the Rugby team over the few years and the tremendous loyalty of the Rugby core customers,” president and CEO Roger Farah said. “We continue to believe that we can service the millennium Rugby customer with brands such as Denim & Supply and Club Monaco.”
Ralph Lauren Corp. also operates 103 Ralph Lauren stores, 59 Club Monaco stores, 201 Polo factory stores and 16 Rugby stores, along with 474 concession shops worldwide. Its global licensing partners operate 144 stores.