Is Coach Cool Again?

History of a Love Affair

It’s complicated. We love Coach and how they’ve evolved from a small family leather goods business in the 1940s to a worldwide brand that democratized luxury and created global trends. But our relationship has been rocky, as we and other fashionistas have embraced and then rejected the brand time and again. Why is our relationship with Coach so darned volatile?

In the ’90s, Coach’s distinctive Americana products were a hit with the stylish set. At that point, Coach owned 50 stores worldwide, and was generally regarded as a luxury brand. Then, in the early 2000s, logo bags and leather alternatives became a hot trend (remember the nylon Prada backpacks and Gucci GGs?),  and Coach responded to the market by creating its (in)famous nylon bag covered in Cs. Their new line of products was a mass-market hit, and more than a thousand Coach stores sprung up across the globe. It seemed they had a store in every mall in America (with an outlet across the street)!

While the nylon logo bag and a diversified product/distribution strategy helped the company grow into a multibillion dollar behemoth, its “mall brand” reputation began to alienate the very fashionistas who helped to make it an iconic label.  And though Coach is performing well internationally,  its U.S. growth has been limp in the last few years. But Coach pays attention to what women want, and responds quickly to rapidly changing consumer trends. And with Fall 2013’s release of a new Coach bag,  we ask: Is it time to reignite our tumultuous love affair with Coach?

The Game Changer – The Coach Borough Bag

Recently, the new Coach Borough bag has been gaining popularity. Sarah Jessica Parker toted it while running errands, then it was photographed on the arms of Jessica Alba, Lea Michele, and other famous names. We love the pebbled leather, confident silhouette, and barely-there logo. The bag is simple yet functional, with just the right mix of modern sleekness and old-school Coach structure. In fact, we think that the entire Coach Legacy line looks just as chic as higher-end structured bags by designers like Kate Spade and Chanel. Purseblog described it best when they noted that it is “decidedly less, well, Coach-y” than past releases. But what IS the most interesting thing about Coach’s Borough bag?

The Price of Luxury

The price. Starting at $598 (and going up to around $1,000), the Borough appeals to the same woman who obsesses over the Hermes Birkin, or craves the latest Valentino “it” bag. It’s more affordable than some high-end labels, but still carries a pricetag that says, this is a luxury status symbol.  And the returned focus on luxury seems to be working:  While revenue was down for Coach in the last quarter overall, U.S. sales of $400+ handbags were actually up.

Lisa Dengler


Tradesy’s Data Portends a Coach Comeback 

Tradesy’s own data also tells us that Coach’s new line has given the brand an equity boost: Relatively few sellers are posting the Borough bag and other Legacy collection items, which indicates that those who already have the bags are satisfied and holding onto it tightly. And while Coach’s nylon logo bags continue to sell swiftly on Tradesy, they typically sell to a customer whose shopping preferences skew toward mass market brands like Ann Taylor and Talbots.  Meanwhile, sales are way, way up for vintage and vintage-style leather Coach bags, like the ones pictured below, and the Tradesy member who buys this bag is typically trend-savvy, also shopping designer brands like Helmut Lang, Acne, and Rebecca Minkoff.  This indicates that the fashion-forward crowd is gravitating toward Coach again…and that your ’90s staple bag may become a hot commodity in 2014! 

coach vintage

We’re convinced that it’s time to fall back into Coach’s arms with a warm embrace. Their newest styles have made us nostalgic for the bags we fell in love with way back when, and as long as they keep producing the stylish, high-quality goods that piqued our interest in the first place, we’ll keep buying. How about you? Shop Coach bags on Tradesy. 

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  1. For those of us who know Coach as a collectors item from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and even early 2000s before the famous brand dilution happened with the monogram nylon print combo, everything about Coach was good back then – the leather craftsmanship, the simple minimalist yet functional silhouette, the appeal of thick cow hide leather with unlined interior..those were the good old days! I myself collect and refurbish vintage Coach and for bags that are now made in China (along with all other brands like Kate Spade and MK and the rest), I am sure Coach is comparable in quality. See, what used to make Coach different – and better/luxury – was that it used to be made in the US and Italy. Then they cut their costs of production, outsourced everything to China, and slapped an ugly print on all their cheaply made totes.

  2. I could not agree with you more Jill. See my post. Although I mention buying them at Target just because I think I’ve noticed that Target has incorporated the “Coach Look” into their brand, but who knows, maybe WalMart has as well. I haven’t ever been in their purse department. In Target, theirs is right when you walk in the door, so you can’t miss it. In any case, you’re TOO RIGHT! Coach is NOT a status item!

  3. Coach lost all appeal for me when it became the “IT” bag for teens and was the knock-off carried by everyone everywhere. Really…who wants to see our bags being hawked by every street vendor on every corner and on the arm of everyone we pass? Those of us who care about our bags want to been seen with something unique and fun. For awhile I stuck with my Michael Kors, dooney and bourke, Kate Spade and Tory Burch, until I finally caved and went over to Louie. Once you take the plunge you never go back. Coach is never going to be anything other than a 2nd class knock-off to me. If you want one, walk in to any Target and buy their version and save yourself several hundred bucks! They’re so prolific, no one will know the difference.

  4. Now that Coach bags are held by 50% of all Wal Mart shoppers they have lost their appeal and place as a “status” item. Why would I pay big bucks for a brand that can be found in most mobile parks?

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