Following high-profile openings (and closings) in 2011 and 2015, Coach hopes the third time is a charm on Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace. Long-time Jing Daily readers will remember Coach’s initial foray on Tmall, which was launched to great fanfare and closed with a whimper less than eight weeks later after disagreements about a “counterfeit crackdown arrangement,” as WWD put it.
Coach’s second launch on Tmall ended in 2016, when the company announced it would go the route of instead building a dedicated shopping channel on WeChat. As Jing Daily wrote at the time, the move was also part of a trend of brands approaching Tmall warily, amid concerns of the platform appearing too mass-market.
The third shot at Tmall comes as Coach owner Tapestry Inc. has indicated a renewed priority on the China market. As Tapestry Chairman and CEO Jide Zeitlin recently put it,“Tapestry is committed to the Chinese market.”
Set to kick off in December 2019, Coach’s third Tmall launch will be part of a promotional push on the platform’s luxury and premium channel, Tmall Luxury Pavilion. This follows a similar launch last October by Tapestry-owned footwear brand Stuart Weitzman, and precedes the launch planned by Kate Spade in early 2020.
According to Tapestry, Coach and Kate Spade will be among the first brands to use the newly upgraded format on Tmall’s new “Flagship Store 2.0.” As Noam Paransky, chief digital officer at Tapestry, noted, the third partnership with Tmall is an attempt to connect with a broader audience and, presumably, collect important customer data.“We are committed to offering a compelling experience for Chinese consumers wherever they choose to shop: our stores, direct brand and third-party websites or social platforms.”
Tapestry’s Tmall plans haven’t been a secret, having initially been announced earlier this year. But with a new CEO in place and a litany of challenges facing Coach in particular with regard to the Chinese consumer, ranging from Hong Kong unrest to a weaker yuan, a drop in Chinese tourist arrivals in the US, and general global economic uncertainty — the move comes just in time for Tapestry to kick off a renewed domestic push to encourage more shopping within mainland China.
Now, the question for Tapestry is whether Tmall — or consumer perceptions of Tmall — has evolved enough since 2011 to make it the kind of place Coach, Stuart Weitzman, or Kate Spade want to be as brands. From Tmall’s perspective, having these brands launch on a new luxury-focused channel should address Coach’s concerns from 2015-2016, and presumably — owing to the current uncertain state of the luxury market and importance of the China market — Tapestry may want to stick around for more than a year this time around.