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American brand Coach is set for expansion, writes Sushma Veera
TURNING to marketing manager Alicia Yeo, Andre P. Cohen, president and chief executive officer of Coach Asia says: “The wall pegboard is nice. Is this the little set-up that you have prepared?”
Dressed in a grey suit, Cohen’s excitement is obvious as he speaks about the brand. He says: “This is our new concept which allows customers to touch and feel the items hung here.”
The touch-and-feel element, it seems, is important to the American label.
Cohen says: “Having started in 1941 in New York City as a men’s leather goods brand and inspired by the baseball glove, the brand has come a long way. Our products are made from high quality leather and feature excellent stitch work and craftsmanship.”
Coach went international in the 1980s and Japan was its first big market. It is now its second largest market, after the United States.
“It has been a good 15 years in Malaysia and the brand has been through several distributors. I must say that I am pleased with our positioning here,” says Cohen.
Coach took over from its local distributor in July and now, Cohen oversees its operations and management directly. At present there are 10 stores in the country, with three opened in the last 12 months.
“Fifteen years ago, our sales was zero. We now have 15 per cent market share, estimated at US$200 million (RM620 million). Today, our sales is a healthy, double-digit growth and we are expecting the market to continue growing for the next five years. It is a very dynamic market,” says Cohen, adding that the brand is popular with professional women between 20 and 40 years old.
On expansion plans here, he says: “We are always looking for opportunities to consolidate the businesses at existing stores. However, we plan to concentrate on increasing productivity rather than opening new stores in the next 12 months.”
He adds: “Like other brands, Coach faces the problem of counterfeit products. I won’t say it is a major problem but it is definitely annoying. Anyway, Coach customers who look for genuine products will certainly not go for fakes.”
He says the brand has zero tolerance for counterfeits and is taking a tough approach to curb the problem — through legal means.
“We position ourselves as an accessible luxury brand. We use quality, outstanding materials and a lot of attention is given to craftsmanship.
“Our stores are very accessible and we go the extra mile to enhance customers’ in-store experience. All our stores feature bright, high ceilings with wide open front doors. The bags are displayed on open shelves rather than in glass cabinets so that customers can feel and handle them,” Cohen says.
Coach started as a men’s brand but the women’s range was so successful it eventually eclipsed the men’s. Then, two years ago, the brand decided to give its men’s range a comeback.
“The men’s market is about a quarter of the global market for luxury accessories. Today’s men collection includes tote bags, belts, jackets, and courier bags,” says Cohen, adding that the items are made in supple glove-tanned leather, giving it the look and feel of classic Coach.
The women’s range has sophisticated leather bags to more practical ones for the younger crowd. Coach released its Coach Signature Collection in 2001. Response was good but Cohen says Coach has always been about leather “which plays a big part in our business”.
“We focus on leather. If you walk into any other luxury accessory store, you’d find lots of signature products that are not made in leather. There is a business for both but there has been a shift as we find an interesting number of consumers moving towards leather.”
Coach also recently launched its Legacy Collection which is inspired by the styles of the 1970s and 80s. Cohen says the collection is a range of timeless styles pulled from its archives and given a modern touch.
It comes in modern shapes and vibrant colours such as yellow, red, blue, turquoise, and green along with tassels on every bag. The collection also comes with matching boots and coats.
The women’s range showcases iconic shapes updated with a fresh, modern spin as well as new designs that take their cues from classic Coach style.
The men’s range is made up of modern business bags and accessories with leather edge bindings, dogleash clips and contoured strap anchors.
Coach’s Legacy handbags incorporate classic Coach design elements — tubular handles, leather-bound edges and contoured strap anchors.
Meanwhile, Heritage hardware feature are harness buckles, oversized metal zippers, grommets, turnlocks and dogleash clips.
Remaking an icon
DESIGNER Anna Sui has collaborated with Coach to create two exclusive versions of the brand’s iconic Duffle Sac.
“The Duffle handbag represents a significant part of Coach’s history,” says Sui.
The bag comes in two limited editions. Fleur-de-Lis Duffle is unlined, like the original version introduced in 1972, and the Dragonfly Duffle features vintage Anna Sui printed twill lining.
The Anna Sui version adds a Boho feeling with whip-stitching, big tassels and appliqued art nouveau dragonflies.
Crafted using vegetable-tanned, hand-burnished leather, each bag is numbered and features solid brass hardware, signature hang tags and a removable interior logo wristlet.
It is available at the end of October at Coach Pavilion, KL.