By  on October 26, 2007

Reed Krakoff is playing scientist and today, he opens his laboratory to the public.Krakoff, Coach Inc.'s president and executive creative director, has been putting the finishing touches on the Coach Legacy store, the first of what could be many intimate boutiques for the $2.6 billion megabrand.The 1,200-square-foot store at 372-374 Bleecker Street in Manhattan's West Village — the signage reads Coach Leatherware, with a vintage horse-and-carriage logo — showcases a mix of offerings ranging from the brand's namesake fragrance at $78 to a matte alligator satchel for $20,000. The Legacy store could be the foothold Coach needs to compete with European luxury powerhouses Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci."Fashion bags are selling for $895," said Krakoff, pointing out that there is little price resistance when it comes to handbags.The average price for a Coach bag is slightly more than $300, but styles such as the Lily, which starts at $1,198, and the Bleecker, topping out at $748 for the largest size, are almost sold out.Coach declined to make a sales projection, but an industry source estimated the store might bring in $1.4 million to $3 million in sales in the first year.Shoes, jewelry, outerwear, gloves, hats, dog accessories, small leather goods and sweaters from Coach's knitwear collaboration with Lutz & Patmos are available at the store. All product categories are intermingled on the sales floor for a casual, but elegant feel."It's an entirely new concept," said Krakoff, who noted that this isn't a "subbrand," but a way for younger fashion-savvy types to experience the world of Coach. "This is a road map for us."One quarter of the merchandise is exclusive to the Legacy store and it has the feeling of the late Coach designer, Bonnie Cashin. Missing are the bread-and-butter basics, such as the monogram "C" logo signature handbags.Krakoff delved into the Coach archives last year and found himself inspired by Cashin, who designed for the company in the Sixties. He then created the Legacy collection, with retail prices slightly higher than typical Coach product, featuring exotic skins such as ostrich and alligator styles. The turn-lock closure and a colorful stripe print that Cashin created have been updated and incorporated into the line."We wanted the feel of a small shop as opposed to a big brand," Krakoff said. "This will be a laboratory for visual ideas and merchandising ideas. The way it's merchandised is really plush and elegant. It's the kind of place where people want to spend a lot of time."The company worked with the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission to restore the Twenties copper storefront. The interior features white marble floors with black cabochon detail, chrome and glass cases and cabinetry with antique mirrors. Zebra rugs lie beneath a long table with a mélange of product atop it near the entrance. Chairs upholstered with the new Legacy stripe fabric are throughout the space. There are several mannequins around the store that embody the style of Krakoff's Coach girl, with newsboy caps and slouchy messenger bags.A wall in the rear of the store is covered with framed pictures of Coach advertising campaigns, old catalogues and even a photo of Krakoff's daughter's art project. The objects are intended to further immerse customers in the world of Coach.The Legacy store offers some limited edition product, such as a group of clutches and small bags done in colorful leather and with the Legacy stripe, retailing for $168 to $358. Some groups of product offer as few as 16 pieces. There is also Krakoff's 10th-anniversary bag created to mark his 10 years as creative chief. It is an ivory kiss-lock clutch printed with the pictures Krakoff took for the current ad campaign. Other notable items are a mink swing jacket with signature turn-lock closure, a gold satchel with two outer pockets and a selection of logo enamel bangles and other jewelry, which are displayed in two elaborate ostrich and python custom-made cases.Krakoff alluded to the company opening more stores, but declined to be specific. A Legacy store slated to open in Los Angeles this year was canceled.On Tuesday, Coach posted a 23.2 percent jump in first-quarter income, and a 27.8 percent spike in sales, but also said traffic at its U.S. retail stores was slowing. The warning applied only to same-store sales. For the three months ended Sept. 29, income was $154.8 million, or 42 cents a diluted share, compared with year-ago earnings of $125.6 million, or 34 cents. On a continuing operations basis, income rose by 34.3 percent to $154.8 million. Sales grew to $676.7 million from $529.4 million.The company said direct-to-consumer sales jumped 26 percent to $508 million, while same-store sales rose 19.3 percent, with first-line stores up 10.8 percent and factory store sales ahead 27.3 percent.

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