Demand for Coach online fell by 44 percent overnight after it emerged on Saturday via a viral TikTok video that the brand was slashing unsold merchandise. Searches for ‘Coach bags’ also dropped by 49 percent compared to the previous 24 hours according to data from Lovethesales.com, a global fashion marketplace which tracks demand and sales data from over 10 million global shoppers across 1,000 retailers.
This constitutes a “huge drop in demand” the London-based fashion analysis firm told FashionUnited, adding that Coach’s sales figures are traditionally stable, and in fact there was a rise throughout this year with the release of new products such as the Pillow Tabby bag.
In 2018 Burberry got into similar trouble for destroying merchandise worth over $36 millionthe previous year, as part of its strategy to preserve the exclusivity of its goods. Following several weeks of outrage the brand announced it would no longer destroy merchandise. Fast fashion brands like H&M and Urban Outfitters, athletics brand Nike, and watchmakers such as Cartier and Piaget, have also been accused of the practice.
Other scandals have hit brands and similarly affected sales. When Balenciaga released their controversial 1,190-dollar sweatpants a month ago, the design of which resembled low-slung pants with the waistband of the underwear visible, they were accused of appropriating Black culture, and demand for the brand dropped by 44 percent in the 48 hours following the incident, according to Loveoursales.com.
Coach faces accusations of irresponsibility and hypocrisy and further drop in sales
But critics of Coach are incensed not only by the brand’s irresponsibility but its hypocrisy, pointing to their website which details a number of sustainability initiatives towards creating a circular economy including offering a repair program to increase the lifespan of your Coach product. “Don’t ditch it, repair it,” reads the website. “It’s another small thing we can do to keep bags out of landfill and reduce our impact on the environment.” The brand also boasts of being one of Barron’s 2020 Most Sustainable Companies in America.
Coach responded on Tuesday with a statement on Tiktok that read in part, “We have ceased destroying in-store returns of damaged and unsaleable goods and are dedicated to maximizing such products reuse in our Coach (Re)Loved and other circularity programs,” and that the brand would look to “responsibly repurpose, recycle and reuse excess or damaged products.”
As the week progressed there had been a further drop of 21 percent, but by Thursday the numbers had started to stabilize.
“It is unclear whether this will do permanent damage to the brand,” says Rebecca Deuchar of Lovethesales.com. “It could go either way. It depends on what Coach does to take responsibility for their actions and what they do to try and rectify the issue.”
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry