Hey gals! For this week's blog we are very excited to do a brand highlight on Coach! Coach started in 1941 as a family run leather goods company in Manhattan. The brand rose to popularity in 1979 when Lew Frankfort joined the company. At the time women only had high end or knockoff choices for hand bags. Recognizing this, Frankfort decided to shift Coach into becoming a designer brand with more affordable options for the new generation of working women.
Around 2012 the brand started to decline in sales due to factors like producing styles that didn't fit the current trends and creating product lines like over-branded trinkets, unlike the behavior of typical high end brands. North American sales were plummeting on average 21% annually from 2011 - 2014. Competitor brands like Michael Kors and Kate Spade, which aligned with Coach in the marketplace also had a huge impact on Coach’s downfall. Coach mis-stepped and sharpened the decline by opening outlet stores and proceeded to flood them with low quality products plastered with over-branding. While their sales were declining in North America, they continued to still open new stores, causing an influx of supply and not enough demand. This is what drove a lot of people to start looking to Coach’s competitors who still held appeal for their designer title. Consumers blamed Coach’s downfall on a conscious change the brand made to go from luxury handbag and accessories maker, to a company that over-branded and produced out of touch items. Many consumers had viewed Coach as a brand that was for everyday women striving to excel in fashion. Along the way, Coach’s brand identity shifted to one that was self-indulgent and disregarded their customer base’s needs. Coach took on a top-of-the-line persona, leaving their dedicated consumers feeling left behind.
However, in recent years we have seen Coach transform itself after its catastrophic downfall. Coach has taken many calculated steps to rebrand and become popular again. The fall of Coach as a brand and its return to relevancy is very interesting in terms of marketing. On the upturn Coach decided to rebrand themselves once again in 2016. They started targeting the mid-20s age market, with ads that would reach out to younger women. Known as a “pull tactic,” this type of marketing is often used by high end and designer brands to communicate individuality in style. In addition to that, Coach began creating pieces that incorporated sleeker designs and on trend styles that young women were actively seeking.
The rise in the vintage trend has also been to Coach’s advantage because many people have taken up the search for the most popular vintage Coach styles. This trend was eye-opening for Coach’s design team, who have capitalized on drawing inspiration from their older popular styles of bags and revamping them in styles that work for today's market. For example the original Coach saddle bag aligns with vintage seekers’ style. Coach created an updated version of this original bag with new color ways and designs that people are currently looking to buy. This way of marketing made people in their early twenties fall in love with the brand again, and offered a sense of nostalgia to their old customer base.
Personally, my favorite everyday bag is a vintage pink, leather trimmed Coach crossbody that my mom got my sister for her birthday in 2006. A vintage pair of Coach sunglasses have inspired me to start trying to look for the perfect Coach products to grow my collection of vintage pieces from the brand. For me Coach never went out of style. This brand is something that has brought generations of my family together. A personal family tradition was on the tenth birthday, we got to choose a Coach wallet, and on the thirteenth birthday you got to pick out a Coach purse. I hope to continue this tradition with my family one day. One thing I love about the fashion industry is that a brand can pull families together. I love that certain aspects of a brand can draw connections to our senses and memories, igniting a sense of community. For example, my vintage Coach sunglasses were actually a gift my siblings and I had given our mom for Mother’s Day in 2005. That pair of sunglasses will always connect me to that day and to those memories from my childhood. My mom always told me fashion repeats itself and that couldn’t be more true. Pieces that she had gotten from Coach more than twenty years ago now fit my style and I always beg to take them from her. The fashion life cycle is what makes second-hand shopping so fun because you get to find vintage pieces that can re-spark an interest in a brand that we used to love.
All photos are taken by Sara Wilson. Images are property of Aline Consignment.