President and Chief Executive Officer at Ralph Lauren
Thank you, Cory. Hey, if there's one thing we've learned over the past 18 months, it's agility and the importance of agility. So apologies for the false start. And now we're ready to go into our prepared remarks. So good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining today's call. Our teams delivered exceptional first quarter performance on both our top and bottom line results and across every geography. Our brand is resonating with consumers around the world as we lean into the breadth of our offering to deliver the products they are craving in this new normal. And all of our regions are in a healthier, more profitable growth trajectory. Even as we continue to execute through COVID-related challenges, it is clear that Ralph Lauren is back on offense.
A few highlights to note. First, building on our consistent brand elevation work in direct-to-consumer business, we are now seeing accelerated demand and increased AUR in our wholesale channel. Second, our digital growth is accelerating, following our pricing and promotional reset work last year, and our digital margins continue to be accretive across every region. And third, we continue to make strong progress toward our long-term target of mid-teens operating margins. We delivered the highest Q1 company operating margin since fiscal '14, even as we more than doubled our marketing investment and continued to reinvest in key areas of growth like digital, key city ecosystem expansion and our consumer targeting and personalization.
Our performance demonstrates consistent execution against the five strategic pillars that we outlined at the start of our Next Great Chapter plan. Let me share a few highlights from the quarter. First, on our efforts to win over a new generation. As we continue to invest in marketing, we are focused on new consumer acquisition and retention and both global and localized campaigns that capture consumers' optimism and desire to come together as we progressively emerge from the challenges of the past year.
Some of our key campaigns in the first quarter included our Summer of Sports, which we kicked off with our Olympics campaign in North America as the official outfitter of Team USA. In June, we amplified our Wimbledon campaign with the diverse group of athletes, celebrities and influencers, such as South Korean superstar and Tottenham forward, Son Heung-Min; British pro surfer, Lucy Campbell; and G2 Esports League of Legends superstar, Rekkles. In the world of golf, we celebrated our brand ambassador, Yuka Saso's first major win at the U.S. Women's Open Championship. And we were excited to welcome LPGA professional golfer, Andrea Lee, as the newest face of our women's golf brand.
Combined, these Summer of Sports campaigns generated more than eight billion total impressions globally in the quarter. And there's still more to come in August and September with the 2021 Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships right here in New York. We also announced our launch this quarter as the official outfitter of G2 Esports, one of the world's premier professional esports organizations. We are proud of this first-of-its-kind partnership in fashion and gaming as we continue to drive new ways of reaching next-generation consumers in key channels where they engage. In all, we added more than one million new consumers to our direct-to-consumer channels alone this quarter.
And our total social media followers continue to grow, exceeding 46 million globally led by Instagram. This takes me to our second key initiative, energize core products and accelerate high-potential underdeveloped categories. As markets reopen around the world, consumers are shifting back to many of the key categories that drove our business prior to the pandemic while we also continue to develop new and high-potential categories. While casual styles are still resonating, we're also seeing a progressive return to sophisticated casual. Given the breadth of our assortment, we have the unique ability to respond to consumer shifting appetite, reintegrating more elevated styles into our assortments as we scale back on stay-at-home categories.
On the men's side, we're seeing a resurgence in polo shirts, sports coats and trousers, denim, footwear and accessories for our core brands. In women's, we're seeing improvements across dresses, elevated sweaters, novelty fleece, jackets and handbags. And we're also driving better performance in bottoms, including new fashion silhouettes like wide leg as well as new fabrications like silk and linen. We are rebuilding the penetration of these categories into fall '21 and beyond as consumers make the transition back to the office and social activities.
Our Spring performance gives us increased confidence that we will have the right assortments to meet consumers' needs moving forward. Other product highlights from the quarter included our first of several special collections with Major League Baseball. These limited capsules celebrate the heritage of America's favorite past time and evoke Ralph's lifelong love of the sport. Launched in May, across all of our channels, including social, digital, our stores and wholesale, the initial capsule generated over five billion media impressions along with significantly higher spend compared to our average total consumer.
Our Spring Polo shirt campaign included the launch of our Polo Color Shop, fully made-to-order customized Polos and our updated Earth Polo in expanded colors. And we launched Polo Cologne Intense, an updated fragrance for a new generation and our new stir of eyewear collection as we continue to elevate and innovate across our licensed categories as well. Moving on to our third key initiative, drive targeted expansion in our regions and channels. With most of our key markets now fully reopened, we are back on offense this year with the build-out of our brand-elevating key city ecosystems around the world.
This ecosystem approach ensures a consistently elevated experience across our digital, social and physical channels both in our direct-to-consumer and wholesale networks. As part of this, in the first quarter, we opened 18 new stores and concessions in priority locations globally, mostly in Asia, and closed 11 locations. China continues to be a significant long-term growth opportunity, and our ecosystem approach delivered strong growth again this quarter with Mainland sales up more than 50%. We are opening two new emblematic store experiences this year in Beijing and Shanghai.
With a smaller footprint than our existing flagships around the world, this new format offers consumers an elevated, immersive brand experience at a significantly lower investment than our traditional flagships. Our Beijing store opened at the end of April in Sanlitun Mall, one of the top shopping locations in the country. In addition to featuring our Ralph's Coffee, Sanlitun integrates innovative, smart retail and digital activations throughout the store in partnership with Tencent. This includes endless aisle technology, virtual try ons and in-store treasure hunt using QR codes and customization stations where consumers use our WeChat Mini Program to order customized products from their mobile phones.
Though still early, the store has significantly outperformed our initial expectations, and we're excited to build on our presence in China with the opening of our emblematic Shanghai location in just a few weeks. Both stores will immerse consumers in the world of Ralph Lauren and will help further develop our ecosystems in these key markets, which already include our smaller format Polo boutiques, concessions and digital presence across our own site and key partners such as Tmall. And as foreign tourism continues to be a headwind compared to fiscal '20 levels, we have shifted more of our marketing, clienteling and merchandising to capture local shoppers and regional tourists along with driving digital commerce.
This takes me to our priority of leading with digital. Our global digital ecosystem, including our directly operated sites, department store dot-com, pure players and social commerce, accelerated to more than 80% growth in the first quarter in constant currency, up from about 60% in Q4. While traffic is returning -- is starting to return to physical stores, the strength in digital is exceeding our expectations, driving a benefit to our overall operating margin mix. North America drove the biggest improvement this quarter, increasing more than 50% across both owned and wholesale digital channels.
Meanwhile, Europe and Asia momentum continued with growth of more than 100% in each region in Q1, led by our wholesale digital and pure-play channels. Our investments in digital continue to focus on content creation for all of our platforms, enhanced digital capabilities to improve the user experience and continuing to leverage AI and data to serve our consumers even more effectively. Touching on our work to operate with discipline to fuel growth. We continue to drive expense discipline in the first quarter in order to fund our long-term strategic investments in global expansion, digital and brand building while also working toward our target of mid-teens operating margins.
We also successfully completed the sale of Club Monaco at the end of the first quarter as planned. And as previously announced, Chaps will transition from our North America wholesale business to a licensed model in Q2. These actions will enable us to further focus our resources on our core namesake brands and elevated positioning in the marketplace. I also want to take a moment to highlight our ongoing work to integrate citizenship and sustainability into everything we do. In June, we published our Annual Design the Change report, outlining our updated commitments and actions to drive our impact and champion the lives touched by our business.
While I encourage all of you to download the full report from our corporate website, I'll highlight a few important additions this year. We committed to comprising our global leadership team of at least 20% underrepresented race and ethnic groups by 2023. As part of our comprehensive circularity strategy, we set a target to use 100% recycled cotton in our products by 2025 and to launch additional resale and recycle opportunities for our consumers by 2022. We also announced a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across our operations and supply chain by 2040 as we continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint throughout our value chain.
And beginning this fiscal year, we will incorporate key ESG metrics into our executive compensation plans. In closing, Ralph and I are very encouraged by the strong start to the fiscal year. Our teams are executing with passion and continue to embrace the agility they demonstrated throughout the challenging and unpredictable last 18 months. While we will continue to monitor key macro challenges closely for the balance of the year, notably around inflation, supply chain disruptions, COVID resurgences and the pace of traffic recovery, the actions we took to strengthen the foundations of our brand and our business last year are enabling us to deliver results even earlier than we expected.
Looking beyond this period of unusual COVID compares, we are increasingly confident in our ability to drive sustainable growth. More than ever, led by Ralph's iconic vision, our teams are intensely focused on executing on our strategic plan to continue to protect and elevate our brand while realizing the significant growth opportunities that exist for our business in every market. With their passion, talent and careful execution, Ralph and I are confident in our ability to deliver attractive, long-term growth and value creation for all of our stakeholders.
With that, I'll turn it over to Jane to discuss our financial results, and I'll join her at the end to answer your questions.