Ralph Lauren on Thursday forecast annual revenue growth below market expectations despite beating quarterly results, as it grapples with subdued demand in the United States.

The company also named insider Justin Picicci as its new chief financial officer, replacing Jane Nielsen, who will continue as Ralph's operations head.

The apparel maker's shares reversed course to rise 2% in morning trade as the company forecast strong margins for the year. The stock fell as much as 3% before the bell.

Ralph Lauren expects annual gross margin to increase up to 100 basis points, as lower cotton costs and better full price sales help offset pressures from labor and freight costs related to Red Sea disruptions.

"Ralph Lauren has a history of issuing conservative guidance. The margin improvement is more important than the sales growth," said David Swartz, senior analyst at Morningstar Research.

The company has also been working to attract more customers to its stores and to digital sales, instead of wholesale channels as retailers cut back on orders due to choppy demand.

As a result, Ralph Lauren's direct-to-consumer channel now comprises about two-thirds of the company's total revenue.

Its fourth-quarter revenue of $1.57 billion edged past LSEG estimates of $1.56 billion, benefiting from robust demand in Europe and Asia, as well as a pullback in discounts due to leaner inventory.

Sales in China grew more than 25%, with Ralph Lauren adding on a post-earnings call that its business in the key luxury market has more than doubled versus pre-pandemic levels.

Excluding items, Ralph Lauren reported better-than-expected earnings of $1.71 per share.

The company added that its new CFO, Picicci, most recently served as Ralph Lauren's Enterprise CFO. He succeeds Nielsen who joined the company as CFO in 2016, and took on the additional role of COO in 2019.

"While promoting internally will likely aid the transition, we do note that Nielsen is a tough act to follow," said Wedbush analyst Tom Nikic.

(Reporting by Juveria Tabassum; Editing by Maju Samuel)