By: Abby Walker
I remember being in middle school, when having a Coach bag was the ultimate status symbol. Sporting one of the classic C-printed bags was a sure sign that you, at twelve, had your life together. Fast-forward to 2015 and Coach is barely heard about amongst the stylish, if even at all. Coach was no longer a status symbol, and this impacted the company majorly. The thought of wearing one of those hideous monogram bags makes me want to ghost myself. I used to be such a collector of everything Coach, and I’ve finally purged my closet of the tackiness.
How has Coach become such a pariah in an industry that celebrates affordable luxury? Brands like Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Kate Spade have found enormous success in the past few years and continue to maintain steady growth. The biggest issue is that Coach fell behind with their branding. Their competitors successfully market themselves as lifestyle brands, which makes them more accessible to more people while also infusing the luxury ideology that makes their products more desirable—a sense that they are harder to obtain. The competitors have also successfully expanded past handbags and are widely known for other luxury goods, e.g. Michael Kors and watches, and Tory Burch and ballet flats.
Coach has since taken these considerations to make a number of necessary changes to their company and brand. In 2014, Coach share prices dropped by 29%, marking a dramatic change from only a few years prior. In order to address this issue and try to move into the next phase of their business, they gave their bags makeovers, forgoing the classic “C” logo for more timeless shapes made of more luxurious fabrics rather than the outdated canvas. Major changes in the executive board were made; both the creative director and CEO were replaced in order to mitigate some questionable business practices and also to breathe some new life into the brand. Their strategy was to represent themselves more like a luxury fashion house from Europe, but with much cheaper prices.
Still, despite the changes they've made, such as drafting well-known models like Karlie Kloss, and infusing the cool and spontaneous branding that surrounds their New York City heritage, Coach is still struggling to escape their “teen luxury” status and move forward in becoming a sophisticated luxury brand. Stock prices are still falling, and I still wouldn’t be caught dead in anything that actually said “Coach” on it. But, Coach is continuing their efforts. Maybe in a year, we’ll be singing a different tune about the brand.