Premium US lifestyle brand Ralph Lauren has reportedly banned some UK independents from selling it online, in a move that has angered store owners.
Ralph Lauren has recently completed a process of telling its bricks-and-mortar stockists they must have a minimum number of stores and high order values or stop selling the brand online.
Only a selection of preferred wholesale partners have been allowed to continuing selling online, including large independents such as premium menswear mini-chain John Anthony and Yorkshire-based Mainline Menswear, as well as Mr Porter, Asos.com and Selfridges.
Smaller independents told Drapers they were first informed of the plans around 18 months ago and have now reluctantly agreed to the terms through fear of losing their account altogether.
The owner of one menswear indie in the Southwest told Drapers: “They first sent a letter saying we didn’t reach their criteria. This was followed up with a mildly threatening verbal warning.
“You’ve got to tick certain boxes. We later found out that they want you to have a minimum of five stores in order to sell the brand online, so a more multiple indie. You also need to spend a minimum of £20,000 with them per season.
“I made the case for us continuing to sell online, but we got the impression that if we didn’t take the stock down we’d have the account taken away.”
The buyer for an East Midlands men’s and women’s wear business added: “When I went to see them last year they said I could put a proposal together for selling online, but it was clear the decision had already been made and there was nothing I could do.
“They said they were looking to rein everything in because too many people were selling online and they wanted it so they only had a couple of partners.
“They allowed me to sell through Christmas and then offered me an image to put online to say I sold the brand in-store, but it was rubbish so I didn’t use it. The website is not a massive portion of our business in terms of sales, but it’s a shop window for our store so if people don’t see the brand online they’ll assume we don’t sell it and go elsewhere.”
Ralph Lauren declined to comment.