May 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

Coach tests offering new products online before introducing them in stores

Coach is trying a strategy that gives customers the chance to buy new products at Coach.com a few days before they arrive in stores.

Luxury retailer Coach Inc. is experimenting with launching new products on its web site before they are available in stores. The goal, says David Duplantis, senior vice president of retail merchandising for Coach.com, is to create buzz about new products before they hit the shelves.

Coach has long sent monthly e-mails about new store and web products on the day they launch. The subject line of those e-mails historically read “New (collection) in store and online today.” Three months ago, however, Coach mixed up its typical formula. In May, for example, Coach sent out an e-mail that featured a new handbag with the subject line: “Online now, in stores Friday,” as a test of bringing products to the web first as a sort of preview to offering them in stores.

“The objective was to pique the interest of the consumer and create buzz prior to the store launch, and ultimately drive more traffic to the site,” Duplantis says. Coach says it is using web site traffic and store sales to measure the success of this approach. While Duplantis says initial results are “favorable,” he did not disclose numbers.

Most Coach e-mail recipients are customers who have opted in when making a purchase at a Coach store. The remaining addresses, Coach says, are from shoppers who register online. Coach is No. 146 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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