By  on November 18, 2005

NEW YORK — Coach is about to display its growing world.

The $1.7 billion accessories brand today will unveil its redesigned and expanded flagship at 595 Madison Avenue at the corner of East 57th Street here. The store, at 10,000 square feet, is the company's largest anywhere — all the better to promote the Coach lifestyle.

"The store plays many different roles for consumers," said Lew Frankfort, Coach's chairman and chief executive officer. "It gives them the opportunity to experience the full breadth of the brand and the power of it."

Frankfort expects the two-tier boutique to generate $20 million in sales in its first year. The store's staff has been doubled to 75.

The flagship will serve as a prototype for all the company's boutiques and will be used as a laboratory to test products and new direction. It's not divided sharply by category, but instead by mode and mood, making it different than any other Coach store.

Coach has been at the location since 1994, and for the expansion, it acquired neighboring spaces, including the former Geox and Ghurka stores, which have moved nearby. It also got additional second-floor space from neighbor Prada.

Coach closed the location in January for renovations and opened a temporary store at 3 West 57th Street, which, according to Frankfort, has been extremely profitable. The decision to enlarge the store by 50 percent as opposed to moving to another location was easy to make, he said, adding the flagship will be profitable from "day one."

Coach's sales increased 29.5 percent to $1.71 billion in 2005. Last month, first-quarter results showed profits soaring 53.5 percent on a 30.5 percent sales gain.

"We [always] tell our shareholders that they will see a return from the beginning," he said, adding that every one of Coach's stores is profitable. "We have a half-million people who visit the 57th and Madison [location] each year. That's 10,000 visitors a week who spend about 15 to 20 minutes each time. The store was [successful], but often wasn't large enough to produce the high level of service to our consumers — 57th and Madison is the heart of New York City and the center of the universe."Coach has 401 stores worldwide, with 199 in North America, 107 in Japan and 95 sprinkled internationally. It also has 85 factory stores in North America. Earlier this month, the firm opened a Los Angeles flagship on Rodeo Drive. A flagship in Kobe, Japan, is slated to open in the spring.

"When we talk about flagships, we talk about beacons," said Frankfort. "It's the best expression for Coach."

Frankfort and Reed Krakoff, the company's president and executive creative director, said they frequent the New York flagship on a regular basis to get a sense of how the company is doing, what products are eliciting strong customer response and what are current street trends.

Krakoff, who is credited with overhauling the brand's design aesthetic and boosting name recognition and sales after he came on board nearly a decade ago — oversaw the store renovations down to the tiniest detail.

The store is gleaming white, from the tile walls to the white-on-white recessed "tray" ceilings, and enormous picture windows are made of low-glare, high-clarity glass on both floors set in period-style brass frames from the Forties, when the building was built.

White Carrera marble borders dark parquet floors in a chevron pattern, which add warmth and dimension. A massive stone and Venetian plaster curving staircase with a polished chrome banister connects the two levels.

The main floor features handbags interspersed with racks of outerwear and nubuck apparel, such as skirts and pants that are exclusive to the location. These objects are merchandised with the occasional shoe or boot throughout.

The ground level also features glass and chrome cases in which small leather goods, evening bags and gloves are artfully displayed, sometimes mimicking the arrangements seen in the company's advertisements.

"These little tableaus give you a way to look [at an item] and see the details that went into it," said Krakoff.

Opposing stations display eyewear, created under a license with Marchon Eyewear, and silk and knit scarves. Further in are baby items — a first for Coach — including diaper bags, teddy bears and picture frames. All styles come in pink, blue, ivory and lavender.The store offers exclusive items such as a chenille handbag collection featuring a logo design, which is available in pink, purple, green and red. Each style is decorated with a gray fur rosette and velvet ribbon. A self-frame bag from the collection sells for $998.

Bags range in price from about $48 for a leather wristlet to $5,450 for an alligator satchel with pockets.

Cubby-like casing even further back holds playful and colorful items such as initial key chains and iPod cases that are targeted at a younger customer.

Upstairs there is a shoe salon, replete with chocolate brown velvet couches, silk logo-print overstuffed pillows and a coyote fur rug. Shoes range from about $90 for paisley rubber rain boots to $595 for a knee-high Jessica suede boot with shearling trim and link hardware.

A men's area adjacent to shoes offers an extended collection of men's outerwear, attachés, messenger and weekend bags, shoes, belts, hats and small leather goods. Krakoff said he has no intention of expanding the men's line.

"It's important that it feels rich and boutique-y, even though it's a big store," said Krakoff, who emphasized the flagship's residential mood, which conveys Coach's accessibility factor.

Interspersed throughout are display vignettes with mannequins. A central one currently focuses on après-ski, with Coach-logoed skis, fur-trimmed parkas and shield sunglasses.

A display on the main floor has a custom-made reindeer with pearl- and crystal-covered horns. It is donning a monogrammed mink-trimmed Coach saddle full of small stocking-stuffer items.

"One of the biggest changes [of this store from others] is that it is a lifestyle presentation," said Krakoff. "We are mixing materials and [categories]."

Frankfort and Krakoff said they don't plan to expand into new categories, such as ready-to-wear or home, although they clearly have the floor space.

"We've come out of a cycle of brands going into every category," said Krakoff. "People are tired of that. They want something more meaningful."

The Coach executives are bullish about the accessories business.

"Women are buying four bags instead of two today," said Frankfort.

Krakoff said the Internet has changed the handbag business. Customers don't have to browse in stores anymore."People are smart," he said. "It's not about big name, big price. People come into the store and know the names of the bags ... and compare it to what we did last year."

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