How Low Can Coach Go?

How Low Can Coach Go?

There have been so many ups and downs with Coach this year that I had to go back and reread the last thing I wrote about the company just to clear my head. In that article -- feel free to check it out here -- I pointed out that Coach was facing a few big issues. First, the market was growing more crowded, and companies such as Michael Kors and Tory Burch are eating up market share. Second, the global market is slowing down, and international sales increases are no longer a given.

Those concerns came home to roost today, as Coach announced a disappointing end to its fiscal year, sending the stock down just short of 8% on the day. Is the end of growth here, or is this just another transition for Coach?

North America fails to rise to the occasion
Unlike our showing in this year's Gold Cup soccer championship, North America just can't seem to bring home a winner for Coach. In the second quarter, year-over-year comparable sales dropped 2%, then they rose 1% in the third quarter, and now they're back down 1.7%. That drop pulled the company's annual comparable sales down, and Coach ended the year flat on the previous year.

The bad news for the quarter was coincidentally delivered alongside the news that the president of the North American division, Mike Tucci, would be leaving the company. I'm sure that's unrelated. The company's chief operating officer is also leaving, giving the company a chance to try a few new things.

While Kors doesn't report until next week, I think it's safe to bet that it's going to have some good news about the business that it continued to take from Coach. I mean, Kors doesn't even need to try to take this business; it's like a dollar on the sidewalk. Last quarter, Kors increased comparable sales in North America by 35%

The rest of it
Coach's international sales weren't strong enough to offset the American weakness, in investors' minds, though the Chinese based business grew year-over-year comparable sales by double digits. Again, I'd be surprised if Kors had anything less than 25% comparable sales growth overseas, meaning Coach is losing market share the world over.

The rest of the world is going to have to wait, as Coach announced today that it's refocusing on North America. That's clearly the right thing for the company to do, and in the past, I've thought that its international focus combined with its expansion in men's has been pulling the business in too many directions. Maybe this is the solution the company needs.

If Coach can put up some meaningful growth in the next quarter, then it might be time to think about investing in the turnaround, but for now, I'm content to wait things out and see where 2013 takes us. There's still a chance that Tory Burch will go public this year, and an increase in capital could mean rapid expansion, and even more heartache for Coach.

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Fool contributor Andrew Marder has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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