Should Investors Be Dying to Buy the Reinvented Coach, Inc.?

Because the fashion world sure is.

Feb 27, 2014 at 9:49AM

Following yet another disappointing quarterly performance from Coach (NYSE:COH) last month, I found myself lamenting that September just couldn't come soon enough for the languishing fashion apparel company.

Specifically, that's when consumers will finally be able to buy items from the inaugural collection of Coach's new executive creative director, Stuart Vevers.

Vevers, for his part, was not only tasked last year with filling the shoes of Coach's previous creative director of 16 years, Reed Krakoff, but also needed to walk the fine line between reinventing an iconic brand and expressing appreciation for its 73-year heritage.

Coach needs the boost
If one thing is sure, it's that Coach is absolutely begging reinvention to turn around its core North American market, which last quarter comprised nearly 70% of Coach's $1.42 billion in total sales. And even though Coach is enjoying relatively healthy growth in promising markets like China -- where sales grew 25% last quarter -- it's still coming off three consecutive quarters of comparable-store sales declines in North America. Most recently, that weakness resulted in a 6% year-over-year decrease in Coach's fiscal second-quarter revenue.

Meanwhile, up-and-coming competitor Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS) just posted sales that grew an incredible 59% year over year to $1 billion, including a 51% increase in North America on comparable-store sales growth of 24%.

However, Michael Kors' stock also reflects much of that optimism, with shares currently trading around seven times sales, 34 times last year's earnings, and 26 times next year's estimates. By comparison, Coach stock trades for under three times sales, just above 14 times both trailing and forward earnings, and also pays investors a 2.8% dividend for their patience.

Your sneak peek into Coach's future
But if September seems too long to wait, keep in mind that Vevers' new collection already made its debut at the New York Fashion Show only a few weeks ago.

Sure enough, though Coach apparently showcased the collection in what Matthew Schneier of The New York Times described as "a series of quiet, appointment-only presentations," Coach was kind enough to give the rest of us a quick peek at a few of the highlights in this video:

Consumers can't purchase anything yet, but that's also why I suggested investors keep their eyes peeled for how the fashion industry would respond.

Luckily for Coach investors, it seems they liked what they saw.

For example, Schneier wrote:

His approach is sensible not only in terms of the company's history and expertise ... but just as importantly, in terms of price. None of the pieces in the collection will top $2,000. Mr. Vevers called it 'a genuine, authentic alternative to traditional luxury.' Both the collection and its presentation were that.

Elle's Ruthie Friedlander was less reserved, insisting, "It's utterly cool, it's utterly chic, and yes, it's utterly American. It's younger, edgier, and fresher than we've ever seen Coach before, and the only negative thing I left feeling was that I couldn't wear it immediately."

Booth Moore of the Los Angeles Times even went so far as to describe Vevers' efforts as "American work wear-meets sophisticated luxury, edgier and more streetwise than the brand was under former creative director Reed Krakoff."

And those weren't the only positive responses. In fact, I had trouble finding any negative criticism surrounding Coach's pending reboot. At worst, most seem to be relieved the brand so many people grew up idolizing is finally showing signs of life.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether most consumers will react the same way. For now, though, it appears Stuart Vevers is off to a great start.

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Steve Symington owns shares of Coach. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Coach and Michael Kors Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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