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The Hunt for Aspirational Shoppers Continues

This week, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors owner Capri report financial results, and likely clues to how well-off, but not that well-off, consumers are spending their money. That, plus what else to watch for in the coming week.
The economic climate has the potential to both benefit and hurt Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and other brands catering to aspirational consumers.
The economic climate has the potential to both benefit and hurt Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and other brands catering to aspirational consumers. (Getty Images)

The fashion industry is consumed with the question of what happened to aspirational shoppers: consumers wealthy enough to buy luxury goods in happy times, but who aren’t so rich they’re immune when the economy turns south. This cohort has dialled back its spending with brands like Gucci and Burberry, that’s clear. Where they’re shopping instead is less obvious.

This week we’ll get some answers. Two of the biggest players in the aspirational category — Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors-owner Capri — report quarterly results this week (Tapestry, which owns Coach, reports later this month). These are brands that make their billions largely by offering a taste of the good life at a premium, but not too premium, cost. They’ve made efforts to move upmarket in recent years, hoping for a piece of the same luxury boom that lifted Gucci and Hermès. Ralph Lauren has been particularly successful in this regard: it’s raised its average unit retail, a pricing measure, by 70 percent since its strategy kicked off, according to TD Cowen, an investment bank.

The question now is whether these brands have done too good a job at elevating their image. Their core customers are feeling the effects of inflation, and may be more open to shopping the outlet malls and department store discount racks that many of these companies have edged away from in recent years. More likely, though, these brands will see an uptick in sales of their lower-priced merchandise, perhaps squeezing margins a bit in the short term without endangering the long-term luxurification project.

In addition to sales and margin figures from the last quarter, watch this week for how executives talk about expectations for the back half of the year, and especially whether they believe they’ll need to ramp up discounts to move pricier merchandise that was manufactured for better times. The global outlook matters too. Capri and Ralph Lauren both have high hopes for China’s recovery, an area where many of their luxury counterparts have been disappointed lately.

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What Else to Watch for This Week

Tuesday

The other earnings story this week is in a raft of results from what’s left of fashion’s start-up boom. Olaplex, Allbirds, Thredup, The RealReal and The Honest Company all report today; each is trying to prove to investors that they have what it takes to survive long term, now that the days of zero interest rates and plentiful VC funding are over.

Also reporting: Capri, Under Armour, Shiseido, Inter Parfums

Wednesday

More earnings: Warby Parker, A.k.a. Brands, Brilliant Earth, Fossil

Thursday

Ralph Lauren reports results

US July inflation data released. Another month of slowing price increases will reduce the odds the Federal Reserve raises interest rates again this autumn.

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Friday

UK reports second-quarter GDP. Expect yet more stagnant growth.

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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