By  on October 13, 2010

LONDON — First the Continent and now the U.K. — Coach Inc. is sharpening its plans for the British market after making successful inroads into the rest of Europe.

The $3.61 billion brand plans to lay down retail roots here starting in early spring with the opening of a 3,000-square-foot shop at the Westfield White City mall in West London. Over the summer, Coach will unveil a 5,100-square-foot flagship — its first in Europe — on New Bond Street.

Those stores, which will stock men’s and women’s collections, will be the first of 10 to 15 Coach locations in the U.K. within the next three years. Coach is expanding in the U.K., Ireland, Spain and Portugal via a 50-50 venture with the British men’s wear brand Hackett.

Chairman and chief executive officer Lew Frankfort said Coach was prepared to take on the U.K. despite the British government’s planned austerity measures, a slow-moving economy and much-anticipated belt-tightening on the part of local consumers.

“Naturally, we prefer markets to be strong and resilient, but as a democratized luxury brand, I think we particularly appeal to consumers who are adapting to a tighter spend,” said Frankfort during an exclusive interview at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge.

He said he hopes Coach’s wide-ranging, quality offer at accessible price points will appeal to customers. Bags in the U.K. will range from 175 pounds, or $277, to 550 pounds, or $869 at current exchange. “We’re striving to be a single-stop shop for all women’s accessories needs — regardless of their age or attitude,” he said.

Although Frankfort declined to give any first-year projections for the U.K. or European businesses, he confirmed Coach is aiming for a $250 million European business in five years time.

In continental Europe, the brand is off to a solid start: Frankfort said Coach’s first boutique at El Corte Inglés in Madrid generated 9,000 euros, or $12,420, in sales on its first day last week, outstripping the brand’s target of 2,000 euros, or $2,760, at current exchange.

On Thursday, Coach will host a party for 400 guests in a Paris loft space to celebrate its retail partnership with the French department store Printemps. Samantha Ronson and the Paris-based Benjamin Cassan have been hired to DJ the event, which is called “Fall in Love With New York.”

Coach has so far opened three boutiques with Printemps, including a 1,700-square-foot space at the Boulevard Haussmann store. Five additional Printemps locations are set to open by June. Frankfort said the French sites were performing well. “We’re very pleased with the initial success, and the brand is attracting both the local consumer and the global tourist,” he said.

No specific figures were available as Printemps is in ablackout period before the release of its financial results.

There is still work to be done in the U.K. market, where brand awareness is still “relatively low,” according to Frankfort, who has been with the company since 1979.


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