Polo Ralph Lauren to launch shopping by cell phone

NEW YORK Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:38pm EDT

The Polo Ralph Lauren logo is seen on their boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California August 5, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The Polo Ralph Lauren logo is seen on their boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California August 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Is the tech-savvy fashionista ready to shop by mobile phone? Polo Ralph Lauren Corp hopes so.

Polo is the first luxury retailer to launch a mobile commerce site, hoping to stay ahead of a trend that is making its way from Asia to the United States, said David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising and son of designer and Chief Executive Ralph Lauren.

Using phones to buy items such as train tickets or products in vending machines is commonplace in Japan, but the trend has yet to catch on in the United States.

"We recognize that in America this is going after somebody who is more comfortable with technology," Lauren told Reuters. "The truth is that in other countries, it's becoming a part of their culture. The trend is coming, and as a fashion company it's very important to identify trends and get ahead of them."

While early adopters of new technologies are often young, Lauren said the move is not aimed at a specific age group.

"This is about someone who's interested in our brand and interested in technology, and wherever the two meet, that's what's appropriate," Lauren said.

Polo, with its higher-end customers, has used cautious inventory management to outperform other apparel makers that have been hurt by a deteriorating U.S. economy.

The apparel maker will begin placing special codes in print ads, mailings and store windows along with its sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which begins later this month.

Shoppers can download special software to camera-phones to scan the codes and be directed to a phone-friendly version of a Ralph Lauren website, where they can shop, watch tennis videos and read company content.

Lauren declined to say how much the company invested in the new technology or its anticipated sales impact.

Cell phones with preinstalled code-readers should come to market within a year, Lauren said.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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