Let’s hear it for the boys.
The men’s business represents an enormous and nearly untapped growth opportunity for Coach. By expanding product offerings, opening freestanding men’s-only stores and increasing the penetration of men’s merchandise in existing stores, the company is on track to more than double sales this year. Right now, men’s accounts for around 5 percent of the company’s $4.2 billion in annual sales.
“Our sales are north of $4 billion, so can men’s be a $400 million business?” asked Michael Tucci, president of Coach Inc.’s North American retail division. “From a global standpoint, 10 percent is absolutely real. And men’s can be an overall growth contributor for the company. It is today, and it will continue to be going forward.”
Coach started to shine a spotlight on men’s in May 2010 when it opened its first stand-alone men’s store on Bleecker Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. The results were immediate and positive, leading the company to add men’s-only stores at Copley Plaza in Boston and Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., this year. “We thought the business would double in the first year, and we’re ahead of that,” he said. “The freestanding stores are rolling along nicely. They’re performing really well, attracting largely a local clientele, but some tourists as well.”
On the horizon is the “reformatting” of a Hawaiian store into men’s-only this fall, followed by another at The Forum Shops in Las Vegas by holiday. “And there will be a couple more for spring,” Tucci said.
The plan is to open 5 to 10 men’s-only stores a year for the foreseeable future.
Men’s has also gotten bigger play on the Internet — another channel with huge volume potential. The Web site was recently revamped, and men’s is now featured prominently. “We essentially created a front door on the Web, where you can enter either the men’s or women’s environment,” he said. “It’s cleaner — like walking into a mall where we have one brand but two experiences side by side.”
In fact, this brick-and-mortar strategy — creating separate but complementary men’s presentations within existing stores — has also proven to be a boon to the men’s business. Coach has modified some stores, including its Manhattan flagships at 595 Madison Avenue and 342 Madison Avenue, to create distinct men’s environments.
“We’ve had significant double-digit comp increases overall at 595, and that was driven by men’s. We saw the same trend at 342. So we’re learning that men’s can really be a productive addition and comp driver within our stores.”
Tucci said that even in stores that are not large enough to add men’s-only departments, sales associates equipped with laptops can drive business by working with customers to order from the Web site. “We’re converting that into business,” he said.
Men’s is also a strong contributor on the factory outlet side. The company opened 15 men’s-only outlets this year, and Tucci said it’s “likely that we’ll add a similar amount per year over the next couple of years. But it’s a moving target. These stores tend to be small, so we need to find adjacent space [to a women’s unit] or new locations,” Tucci said.
Ironically, even though men’s is still a relatively small business for the company, it’s where Coach got its start in 1941, as a men’s leather goods business; women’s wasn’t added until around 1960.
“Women’s has been such a powerhouse,” Tucci said. “But men’s is reemerging, and the business is happening.”
He said the men’s product, which runs from briefcases and wallets to belts and iPad cases, attracts both the “traditional business guy” as well as “the fashion guy. Everything from the classic leather briefcase to an updated ergonomic slingback pack is getting attention and selling. “Guys are more mobile today, they’re not necessarily working in an office. And reaching that guy is a real opportunity for us.”
The only surprise Tucci has seen in terms of sales is that the business is “less bag driven,” he said. While bags still represent 50 percent of the business, the other half is “broadly distributed” and includes belts, wallets, furnishings and electronics accessories. Gift items for graduations and Father’s Day have also proven popular. “We think holiday will be explosive,” he said.
Even so, Coach is being cautious in its men’s retail rollout. “We’re being careful with our store commitment,” Tucci said. “If we can expand or reformat a store, that’s what we’ll do.” In South Coast Plaza, for example, the company operated a 5,000-square-foot women’s store but was able to pick up an additional 500 to 600 square feet for men’s. “That will do as much volume as a freestanding store, and the economic model is better.” Tucci said the company hopes to do five to 10 of these “enhancements” next year.
“We’re looking at our existing real estate to enhance our men’s presence, especially in dominant centers,” he added. “Men’s and women’s under one roof is where we need to be. It’s more holistic.”
Tucci believes Coach is also benefiting from the heritage trend that has taken over the men’s market. “From an accessories standpoint, we need to own that,” Tucci said, pointing to Coach’s “quality, thoughtfulness, taste and burnished quality.”
The design team at the company has really embraced the focus on men’s wear, offering both modern products such as iPhone cases, as well as updates on some archival pieces. For spring, Coach will use vintage baseball gloves and repurpose the leather into billfolds and coin cases. Products such as these, Tucci said, “are very tied to our heritage.”
The use of embossing and monogramming has also been popular with men. “That goes back to our roots, and guys love it,” he said. “So we’re going to build an initiative around that.”
He continued: “There are so many things in the line that evolved from originals. That’s why the concept hangs so well together and feels true to the DNA of the brand.”
As a result, Tucci believes the potential for Coach men’s wear is unlimited.
“The timing is right, the brand is strong, we have the talent and the capital to fund the business,” he said. “So we have to build on it with the right product, innovation, service and store environment. It’s very much about execution.”