By  on April 14, 2005

NAGOYA, Japan — For pop star and Coach spokesmodel Mandy Moore, her recent visit to Japan was as much about the handbags as it was about the food.

“I love sushi,” she said at a press conference here.

The singer, actress and designer was in town to celebrate the opening of Coach’s newest flagship in Nagoya, as well as headline its free Play for Peace concert in Tokyo. More than 7,500 fans packed the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium last Saturday to see Moore perform with N.E.R.D. and Mika Nakashima.

Earlier in the week, Moore joined Coach chairman and chief executive officer Lew Frankfort and Kenichi Nagasawa, director of Sumitomo Corp., which is a partner in Coach Japan, in cutting the ribbon to open the store.

The four-story building, with 8,000 square feet of floor space, is located in the city’s busy shopping and entertainment district, Sakae. It’s a block away from a unit of the national department store chain Mitsukoshi and the local Melsa-Skylite department store, where Coach already operates an in-store shop.

“This is the first structure specifically and exclusively designed to house a Coach store anywhere in the world,” Ian Bickley, president and ceo of Coach Japan, said of the store, the company’s 12th in Japan.

The shop offers a full line of merchandise, including handbags, women’s and men’s leather accessories, business cases, luggage and other travel accessories, watches, hats, jewelry, apparel, outerwear, neckwear and eyewear. Colorful Scribble handbags, totes and related accessories such as small leather goods, sandals and eyewear are on the first floor. In light of the recent Asian tsunami disaster, Coach will donate a minimum of $150,000 from the sale of Scribble handbags to UNICEF.

In the last three years, Coach Inc. has tripled its Japanese sales. The new flagship marks the beginning of its ambitious business plan to double its sales in Japan in the next four years to more than 80 billion yen, or $740 million at current exchange.

“We plan to open at least 10 new locations each year during the next few years and achieve a growth of 20 percent annually, taking us to a share of at least 15 percent of the imported handbag and accessories market,” Frankfort said. “We believe these goals are achievable based on the fact that Japanese consumers have embraced Coach’s accessible luxury proposition, including the innovation and relevance.”The plan calls for increasing the number of Coach outlets over the next four years to more than 130 from 105, with eventually 15 flagships in total. Frankfort would also like to expand existing high-performing stores, raise productivity and invest in human resources.

When asked about Coach’s pending lawsuit in Japan against LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for anticompetitive behavior, Frankfort reaffirmed that “the matter is under investigation today.”

“As we reported in our press statement, our business continues to grow very rapidly in Japan,” he said. “We have filed a complaint because we believe that consumers should have the right to choose the brand they wish to purchase and third parties should not interfere with the department store’s right to carry the brand or situate it where they wish.”

In response to a question of whether his company has been hurt by the alleged anticompetitive practice, Frankfort said: “Naturally, there are a number of instances where our potential business could be affected and that’s why we filed.”

Coach Japan anticipates revenues of 40.5 billion yen, or $375 million, here in the fiscal year ending in June, which would be a 28.2 percent gain from a year earlier. It has an estimated market share of 8 percent, making it the second-largest import brand in Japan after Louis Vuitton.

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