March 14, 2007, 12:00 AM

Brand recognition drives web sales at Coach and Ralph Lauren

A recognizable brand name in conjunction with stronger web site traffic helped Coach Inc. and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. post record e-commerce revenue in 2006. Coach posted a year over year gain of 29.5% and Polo.com grew by 34.1%.

A recognizable brand name in conjunction with stronger web site traffic helped Coach Inc. and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. post record e-commerce revenue in 2006.

Coach, No. 162 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, grew its online sales for the 2006 fiscal year by 29.5% to $54 million from $41 million in fiscal 2005. Overall the web accounted for about 3% of total FY 2006 sales of $2.11 billion.

The company, which attracts more than 40 million unique visitors each year, attributes the increase in e-commerce sales to its well recognized brand and targeted e-mail campaigns, which totaled more than 50 million individual messages in fiscal 2006. “Our Internet business has grown to be significant,” Coach says in its annual report. “The growth in the Internet business is driven by the strength of the overall Coach brand as well as advertising and e-mail contacts.”

Brand recognition also is helping Ralph Lauren Media LLC grow its online sales. Ralph Lauren Media, a joint venture owned and operated by ValueVision Media Inc. and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., posted e-commerce sales of $114 million in 2006, up by 34.1% from web sales of $85 million in 2005.

In 2006, Polo.com averaged about 1.8 million monthly unique visitors and served 820,000 customers. “Polo.com offers our customers access to the full breadth of Ralph Lauren apparel, accessories and home product, and allows us to reach retail customers on a multi-channel basis and reinforces the luxury image of our brands,” says Ralph Lauren in its annual report.

Recently, Polo.com, No. 101 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, was updated to include more content-Polo.com now offers extensive advice on how to engage in current fashions, including how to wear a long skirt as part of a fashionable fall outfit, for instance, or how to dress up a bedroom with trendy linens.

“Both Coach and Polo have well-recognized brands that create large amounts of organic traffic to their web sites,” says Jim Okamura, senior partner with retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group. “Their respective e-commerce sales are not insignificant, but their biggest challenge in growing the web is conversion-many shoppers think of a brand manufacturer’s site as a great place to check out the latest style and trends and then shop elsewhere for the best deal.”

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