Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Bearish on handbags? Be that way, says Coach CEO


handbag.jpgSparks flew at an investor conference when a male retail analyst asked Coach Chief Executive Lew Frankfort a question that has confounded men for ages — how many handbags do women really need?Here’s the transcript from that exchange:Analyst: What is the pantry load or the handbag inventory of most women? And what happens to older handbags? Obviously women pay quite a lot of money for them. I’m just wondering how many they keep… I mean, can there be a significant detriment to sales in the future, just because there are a lot of handbags in women’s closets?Frankfort: Let me ask you, are there any women in your life that you might be able to ask how many handbags are too many? Most of us men in the audience know that women do spend, and we see it in all of our homes. In terms of how much is too much? It’s a theoretical question.We also have a very large segment of America who do not own Coach bags, and we continue to bring new consumers in to our franchise at a very attractive rate, and what women tend to do with bags is they retire the bags. They go to a place deep into the closet, and they purchase a new one, and that’s the reality.  I’m not sure where you are traveling with your questions.Analyst:  I’m traveling towards a consumer retrenchment and how people are going to retrench, and what their inventory of handbags may be for whenever the right occasion comes up. It’s — you know, we’re in uncharted (territory) here economically.Frankfort: Everything is uncharted. Everything is empirical, starting with this very moment. What you need to do is make calculated bets based on what you know, and what you think. And if you are bearish on handbags, be bearish.At that point, a female Coach executive cut in: I have never heard a man say, I am so sick of my black wallet, I need a red one. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard women say, I have to have this year’s red handbag.So it’s a perceived need for a woman …  I have to say something as the woman at the table.So, how many handbags (or wallets) do you have stashed away?(Photo: Reuters)