President and Chief Executive Officer at Ralph Lauren
Thank you, Cory. Good morning everyone and thank you for joining today's call. Our strong first quarter performance underscores the resilience and momentum of our business around the world. This follows our significant multi-year reset to transform our consumer base, product portfolio and distribution. These results also validate the strong confidence that Ralph and I have in our teams, who are consistently executing with incredible dedication and agility through what continues to be uncertain times. We exceeded our expectations again on both the top and bottom line with broad based strength across all three regions, despite macro headwinds from COVID and inflationary pressures in the quarter.
Our teams are driving increasing desirability for our brands and products, enabling high quality consumer recruitment as well as retention. Our proven ability to drive a strong value proposition for our consumer, which has strengthened over the last four years of our strategic plan, is an important advantage for Ralph Lauren, especially through times of macro uncertainty. We are obviously highly attentive to the volatility highlighted recently by our retail peers across the price spectrum. And while we are not immune to broader macro headwinds, we remain focused on what we can control. We have many areas of strength that include a powerful differentiated brand that we continue to invest in. A strong core business that is resilient through challenging cycles, a more flexible expense structure, the diversified global supply chain with proven agility and discipline in our inventory management, and a robust balance sheet, which enables us to make the right decisions for the long-term health of our business.
And while we continue to adapt to shifting macro developments, this strong foundation gives us confidence as we drive our business across multiple engines of long-term growth. These include, first continuing to drive brand heat and desirability. Second, leveraging our luxury [Indecipherable] and unique multi-category lifestyle proposition, where we can dial certain product categories up or down as consumer needs evolve. And third, rolling out our key city ecosystem strategy led by digital.
We are balancing these priorities with our ongoing focus on productivity, an important driver to fuel our top and bottom line growth. In [Indecipherable] everything we do is our commitment to deliver a positive impact in the world across citizenship and sustainability. Our first quarter performance was a strong example of our progress across each of these areas. Let me take you through a few of our first quarter highlights across these strategic pillars of our Next Great Chapter plan.
First, on our efforts to win over a new generation, in the current operating environment, we remain focused on investing in our brand to deliver a clear, differentiated message to our target consumers. Our multifaceted marketing strategy is focused on leveraging our core brand values to connect authentically with consumers, strengthening existing relationships and recruiting new and younger high-value consumers around the world. This was particularly evident in the first quarter, where we continue to focus our investments on driving brand desirability across a diverse range of activities.
First, we kicked off the 50th-anniversary celebration of our iconic Polo shirt this spring, with a 360-degree campaign and book launch across our stores, social media and celebrity moments, which we amplified globally. While our business is so much more than a Polo shirt, this icon is a testament to the unique emotional connection consumers have with our brand, across ages, genders, and geographies.
You may have seen our dynamic billboards in the heart of Seoul [Phonetic], Paris, London and LA. We also launched a limited edition vintage Polo collection in stores and our latest sustainable Earth Polo. We invited our fans throughout the world to share touching personal stories about their memories with the Polo shirt on social media. As consumers increasingly value brands that are timeless and authentic, we continue to weave Ralph Lauren into the fabric of modern culture around the world.
Similarly, we celebrated the optimism and perseverance of sport through our 17th Annual sponsorship of the Wimbledon Championships, inspired by our timeless spectator style, this year's new uniforms combine the heritage of our brand with modern silhouettes and fabrications, including the use of recycled materials. And we continue to capture key brand moments that resonate with fashion lovers around the world, including our Gilded Glamour addressing at this year's Met Gala.
Friends of the brand like Alicia Keys in her [Indecipherable] to the New York City skyline with husband Swiss beats, Ryan Reynolds and Jay Bhavan channeling old Hollywood, and the always daring Janelle Monet were all featured in our brand. These activations attracted younger full-price consumers to our business, driving another quarter of strong top-line growth. New consumers on our digital sites grew nearly 70% to pre-pandemic levels and our online search trends grew high teens to last year in Q1, led by our Polo shirt and spring luxury campaigns, significantly outperforming our peers globally.
Touching on our second key initiative, energize core products and accelerate high potential under-developed categories. Ralph and our design teams continue to deliver the products consumers are craving in this moment, with broad-based strength across our range of luxury lifestyle categories. People are coming together again with a renewed appetite for style from a fresh approach to wear-to-work, to weddings and other social gatherings, our brand is uniquely positioned to capture this mix of sophisticated and casual dressing.
Product highlights this quarter included our global Polo shirt campaign, which drove strong performance across a range of styles from our [Indecipherable] to our seasonal prints and novelty offerings. The strong trend was reinforced by the introduction of our upcycle polo shirts, celebrating the timeless quality and consumers' emotional connection to this iconic style. Our Kobal [Phonetic] Hill collection for Polo men's, which celebrates our sophisticated sportswear in the modern wardrobe.
And our Athletic Club collection bringing Classic tennis and golf-inspired styling to the next generation was a stand-out for the season. With strong sales in lightweight sporting windbreakers, rugby shirts, and fleece in classic combinations of white and dark cream. From our clean summer whites to our colorful classics, Ralph Lauren embody the exuberance of a return to head-to-toe dressing at its best.
Shifting gears to our third key initiative, drive targeted expansion in our regions and channels. We continued our long-term strategy of investing in our key city ecosystems around the world in the first quarter with a focus on elevating our touch points with the consumer across every channel. During the quarter, we opened more than 60 new stores and concessions in top cities globally. Nearly all of our store openings were in Asia and notably the Chinese mainland, where our brand momentum and opportunities remain strong despite transitory COVID lockdowns.
Following our first two emblematic store openings last year in Beijing and Shanghai, we opened a third emblematic concept in Chengdu, another key city cluster, which also included our first restaurant and bar in China, reinforcing our Lifestyle offering in the market. And while roughly 50% of our China stores were negatively impacted by COVID closures in the quarter, driving mainland sales down to 10% last year in constant currency, we continued to reinforce our elevated brand positioning in the market.
Our 520 and 618 Festival performances outpaced our closest peers by double digits while we also increased our penetration of full-price sales. We remain confident in our long-term growth trajectory in China with strong brand momentum and an encouraging recovery and performance as COVID-related store restrictions were lifted in late June as expected. We continue to watch our key markets carefully including the ongoing impact of COVID variance.
Moving to our priority of leading with digital, we've made significant progress over the last four years in repositioning our digital business, putting it on the path of strong margin accretive growth that is outpacing total company growth. This progress is underscored by our recent ranking in the luxury Digital IQ Index for 2022, where we were proud to rank number two among 75 global luxury retailers, up from number five last year.
First quarter sales for our total Ralph Lauren digital ecosystem, including our directly operated sites, department store.com, pure players in social commerce grew mid-single digits in constant currency. This was on top of an exceptionally strong compare of more than 80% last year and about 85% growth in first quarter fiscal 2021. Within our own Ralph Lauren digital sites, sales grew high single digits in the first quarter. We continue to drive strong full-price selling as we deliver the right mix of products and invest in AI-powered targeting and high-quality new consumer acquisition. We also launched new localized digital commerce sites to support our ecosystem expansion globally. This includes the 21 sites launched in Europe in fiscal 2022 and new sites added in the first quarter in India and Israel.
Our Asia digital ecosystem once again drove the fastest growth globally over a smaller base of more than 60% in constant currency the last year. This was led by triple-digit growth in Korea and 40% growth in China, where our digital businesses outperformed peers and the broader market, despite disrupted supply chains in Shanghai and shipment restrictions on non-essential goods. We were also encouraged by early performance in our Australia digital flagship, which we launched at the end of Q4.
Moving to our work to operate with discipline to fuel growth. Our teams have operated with incredible agility to mitigate emerging macro challenges delivering operating margins ahead of our expectations in the first quarter despite increased cost headwinds. In June, we published our timeless by design, global citizenship and sustainability report outlining our commitment to address our impact.
Why I encourage you all to download the report from our website, Let me highlight a couple of exciting initiatives. First, we officially announced our first Cradle to Cradle certified product with our iconic luxury Kashmir sweater launching later this fiscal year. With more C2C products to come and we're kicking off our live-on promise to enable our past and future products to live on responsibly by 2013. In addition, we were proud to recently be named one of Parity.Org's Best Companies for Women to advance for the third year in a row, as we further our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
In closing, our company has weathered a variety of macro environments over the last 55 years, not to mention the last three, with our organization emerging stronger and more agile than ever before. Ralph and I are incredibly proud of the passion and execution our teams have demonstrated throughout, all while staying true to the values that have made this brand revered and emotionally connected since its inception.
And I am confident that the healthy foundations we've put into place along with our multiple engines of growth will enable us to continue driving towards our commitments of long-term value creation. As always, we remain keenly focused on what we can control and are executing at our long-term strategic initiatives while continuing to navigate an uncertain global environment. We look forward to sharing more with you at our Investor Day next month. And before I turn it over to Jane, I'd like to welcome Deb Cupp, who joined our Board of Directors last week, currently, the President of Microsoft North America, she will bring an important perspective to our digital acceleration and more. Ralph and I would also like to thank parting Director Judith McHale, who has served on our Board since 2001 for many years of leadership and dedication to the company.
With that, I'll hand it to Jane to discuss our financial results and I'll join her at the end, to answer your questions.