Byline: Valerie Seckler / With contributions from Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Coach is getting more serious about going direct.
Kate Buggeln, who joined just eight months ago as chief executive officer to lead the fashion portal’s relaunch, has just jumped ship to become Coach’s senior vice president of strategic planning, licensing, direct marketing and market research. It’s a newly created post at the marketer of fine accessories, which has been on a roll, racking up a 40 percent increase in earnings to roughly $40 million for its second quarter ended Dec. 30, on a 10 percent sales gain to $214 million — after going public last October with an initial offer of 7.4 million shares, or 17 percent of the float, at $16 a piece.
Buggeln, 40, is slated to start at Coach on March 30, where she will oversee both Internet and mail order business, among other duties, and will report to Lew Frankfort, Coach’s chairman and ceo.
“Coach is a brand I’ve always admired for its customer loyalty, product integrity and keen sense of focus,” Buggeln said in a statement.
“The company has evolved into a compelling fashion and lifestyle leader, while remaining true to the brand’s legacy,” Buggeln added in referring to the 60-year-old Coach, which has a presence on the site of’s corporate parent, Although eager to discuss her ideas for Coach Tuesday, Buggeln said she — and the rest of the company’s executive team — was forced to stay mum, due to a quiet period stemming from the company’s stock exchange offer, which began on March 8. Under that arrangement, Sara Lee will exchange up to 41.4 million shares of Sara Lee common stock for shares of common stock in Coach Inc.
On Tuesday, shares in the fashion firm gave up $1.28 to close at $27.80 on the Big Board — 74 percent higher than the price at which the issue came to market on Oct. 4.
Buggeln’s move to Coach is the latest example of how the fruit of a churning dot-com landscape — primarily the talented workforce — is being picked by Old Economy stalwarts such as Coach. And with Buggeln, Coach is adding someone who’s had a foot in both trenches of the economy during her 18-year career, which she began by merchandising home goods at Bloomingdale’s, before moving on to retail management consultant LakeWest Group — where her clients included Gucci, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Gumps, J. Crew, L.L. Bean, — and then to last July.
“We are extremely pleased that Kate will be joining our management team and bringing her strategic marketing skills to Coach,” Frankfort said in the statement. “We have numerous category expansion and geographic opportunities, among others, which Kate will help us to prioritize and develop in order to grow the Coach business.”
These are heady times for Coach, whose product and marketing have gone through a metamorphosis in the last several years, under Reed Krakoff’s creative direction. Krakoff has spearheaded the development of more fashion-forward styling in the brand’s signature leather goods division, as well as overseen its expansion into other products, such as its highly successful watch business, home accessories, furniture and footwear. Coach’s advertising campaigns have captured the new spirit at the firm as well, being shot by such high-profile photographers as Mario Testino and featuring celebrities such as actress Julianne Moore.
Besides developing an onslaught of new and hipper products, Coach has been busy the past couple of years deepening its executive ranks. In October, Mary Wang left her post as president of the Daryl K division of Pegasus Apparel Group, after a short stint, to join Coach as president of its wholesale arm. Before Pegasus, Wang held a series of high-profile posts, including president of the DKNY women’s division and president of the Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro division of GFT.
In addition, Andrea Resnick was enlisted from the investment firm of HSBC Asset Management last August, ahead of Coach’s Oct. 4 IPO, as divisional vice president of investor relations, and David DeMattei joined Coach in June 1998 as president of its retail unit from senior positions at J. Crew and Banana Republic.
During its most recently completed quarter, Coach realized growth of 8 percent to $146 million in its direct-to-consumer sales, which consist primarily of revenue from Coach stores, while wholesale volume increased 15 percent to $68 million. Coach opened seven retail stores and two factory outlets during the period, bringing the total operating under the company’s banner to 114 retail stores and 65 factory outlets. Coach’s earnings for the quarter, which tallied $39 million, or 88 cents a share, beat Wall Street estimates and compared with year-ago earnings of $28 million, or 65 cents a share.
Coach products are sold worldwide through Coach stores, department and specialty stores, on the Coach Web site, at and through the Coach catalog in the U.S.