It’s no secret that Coach is in flux. After the departure of longtime creative head Reed Krakoff, the company has decided to pivot its public image in a more fashion-savvy direction. First, that meant bringing on handbag savant Stuart Vevers, late of Loewe and Mulberry, and allowing him to set a tone for the brand’s aesthetic future. The next step, it appears, is shifting its retail strategy – there are going to be far fewer Coach stores in the near future, according to Women’s Wear Daily.
Last week, Coach announced that it would close 70 under-performing North American stores in the first half of 2015, which is likely wise, considering the more fashionable and expensive direction that Vevers intends to take the brand. Just from my own observation while visiting my parents in Georgia, Coach has many stores in suburban malls with few (if any) other luxury retailers and little in the way of a luxury customer base, and while it may have long been possible to sell $300 handbags in those markets, Coach’s desire to raise its prices to line up with a more fashion-focused product line will probably make sustaining business at those locations untenable.
In addition to the closures, remaining Coach boutiques will get a new concept that’s more in line with the brand’s new aesthetic direction, starting with flagships in major markets like New York City.
For bargain-savvy shoppers, both Coach’s promotional schedule and its outlet strategy are shifting. The brand indicates that it will move to a biannual sale schedule, which is in line with other luxury brands and retailers. In the past, Coach’s sales and promotions had been more diffuse, and customers who are used to waiting for their discount cards to come in the mail for multiple mid-season events per year will likely be disappointed in the tightening of the markdown reins.
At the outlets, product assortment will be the biggest shift. Only two locations will close, and in the remaining stores, the now-ubiquitous logo bags will make way for a wider variety of leather options. We’ve heard some irritation from our Forum members about the lack of leather at the Coach outlets, so perhaps this news will create some satisfied customers. WWD didn’t make it clear whether the logo options would be scuttled from the outlets altogether or just drastically reduced, so we’ll have to wait and see.
All of these changes come on the tail of news about Coach’s sinking profits, and 2015 is expected to be a rough year while the brand attempts to right itself. Do you have high hopes for Coach?