Exclusive Access: Polo Showroom Tour


Thurs Aug 2 – As the FSF summer activity programming came to a close, students had an incredible opportunity to tour the Polo Showroom to witness the garment lifecycle from conception to the end customer. We are happy to share a few notes from the event:

Key Messages from Joy Herfel on the walk-through:

• Any experience is good; find mentors, and learn something new every single day.

• There is a very small percent of people who can truly say they love their jobs, but if you do, you’re in a good position to be both successful and happy with your career.

• Regarding mentorships – sometimes the best mentors happen naturally. Take advantage of formal mentorship programs, but make sure to be on the lookout for those you would like to reach out to as mentors.

• Be eager to learn, and don’t be shy to say you don’t know how to do something.


• Buying is marrying Ralph’s vision to the wants and needs of the consumer. It’s closely connected with design.

• As a large publically-held company, it’s also important to consider shareholder’s expectations.

• To find the brand and label strategies for the right consumer, buying happens down to the specific store level.

• At RL, the hottest trends are not always followed. What’s most important is the vision.

Merchandising – Club Monaco

• There is no average day, only an average cycle. The cycle starts with the line sheet, which is the skeleton of the business.

• You have to build your merchandise selection within the context of the showroom. Essentially, are you buying enough of the right stuff?

• Own the process.

• Despite the higher cost, use better fabrics to push the brand through.


• At RL, neither Ralph nor the buyers dictate the design process; designers come up with mood boards (of photographs, fabric) and Ralph and buyers adjust the designs to align them with the RL vision or the wants and needs of the consumer.

• There is a large archive of design ideas at Madison 625 to help designers with developing their ideas.

• At RL, designers have the opportunity to learn to design for many diverse brands, all within one company.

Merchandise Planning

• The business is driven, ultimately, by profitability and margins. Planning is the “voice of reason” in the company, working with diverse departments as buying, sales, and finance. It’s also very important to be talking to design and production.

• Know the price points that sell as well as what your competition is doing.

• Key measures of profitability at RL: sell through last week, sales to date, SKU efficiency, SKUs under 300 units, gross margin.

• There is a difference between account and merchandise planners.


• “The RL store is a romantic and magical place; it’s an expression of who you are.” (John Fisk, Sr Director of Men’s luxury business)

• In sales, you get to work in showrooms every single day, interact with accounts every single day.

• In a department store, there are many other shop-in-shops all competing for the customer’s attention. The way to stand out is to create a truly unique and intriguing presentation.

• It’s also important to spend time with associates, and get them excited about the RL brand.


• Tourism and loyalty are big themes to focus on in the future.

• Marketing is not just glossy magazine ads – it’s signs, invitations, mailers – everything that communicates the RL brand to the consumer.

• PR – getting the right celebrities, models, runway photographers – is also an important part of marketing

• Online marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) is a fast growing part of the marketing effort.

Notes Compliments of Maggie Jiang


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