Coach announced this week plans to remove its bags from 250 department stores across North America as part of a move to reduce discounting and restore the brand’s association with luxury. In June, Michael Kors had adopted a similar strategy and announced that it would be limiting products sold to department stores to preserve pricing and avoid aggressive discounts.
Coach – one of the top 10 brands in L2’s Specialty Retail Index – shows the same focus on brand perception throughout its digital strategy. In search, for example, it owns top search results for products it wants to be known for (handbags, watches) rather than investing across a variety of keywords. Its Instagram feed is more aspirational than accessible, with photos enlarging details of products (showcasing craftsmanship) and relaying milestones in Coach’s 75-year history.
And in May 2016, Coach (along with Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co., Tommy Hilfiger and Tory Burch) participated in the Met Gala and clothed several influencers who were able to generate buzz and social engagement around the brand.
But can brands like Coach translate their buzz to sales without the help of intermediaries such as department stores? It depends on their e-commerce capabilities, brick-and-mortar footprint, and how well they integrate the two. Based on L2 research, Coach is ahead of many of its peers in omnichannel features that drive online sales or store visits. The brand continuously updates local inventory status, facilitates in-store pickup of online buys, and has rolled out e-gifting.