NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Michael Kors (KORS) and Coach (COH) are revving up for the fall season and it looks like each are playing to their strengths in the battle over the handbag and accessories categories.
At Michael Kors, which plays to the "jet set" luxury lifestyle, two trends consumers will see in fall products include black accessories and camouflage products. At Coach, where sales have been struggling, its attempt to remake itself into a "lifestyle" retailer (meaning it sells more than handbags) includes returning to basics, which include leathers and a more classic look, according to retail expert Marie Driscoll.
"Michael Kors rooted in its fashion luxury positioning this season has a fabulous black watch. Most of us don't have a whole lot of black jewelry in our wardrobe ... who better than Michael Kors with his credo for fashion and watches better exemplifies the watch we should buy? Then we will just move on to buy his black bracelet or rings," Driscoll told TheStreet on Friday in a video interview. "Camouflage goes in and out of season. It's very hip now."
Yet, Coach's new Executive Creative Director Stuart Vevers has "brought a little naughtiness to the brand look," while restoring the quality of the merchandise, according to Driscoll.
"We know they're changing their product, we know they're going back to their roots and improving the quality - lots of iconic leather," Driscoll noted. "What they need to do is CRM (customer relationship management). They need to go back to that and connect with the consumer with their new lifestyle positioning."
Shares of Michael Kors have been hit hard over the past few weeks as Wall Street has become more cautious over the "jet set" luxury brand's trajectory of its phenomenal sales growth going forward and concerns about recent store markdowns. The stock is down roughly 9% over the past month and was trading down on Friday, falling 0.81% to $81.82.
Most recently, Baird Equity Research downgraded shares to "neutral" from "outperform," suggesting that there is an increased risk to its revenue and margin performance in North America stores. "While we see little risk to FQ1 earnings/guidance we see less room for upside to current Street expectations, supported by weaker July search trend data and Q3 survey results that point to weaker purchase intent across the handbag category," the July 30 note said.
Coach warned in June that it expected revenue to fall by a double-digit percentage for fiscal 2015 and next year it would close 70 underperforming stores. Coach CFO Jane Hamilton Nielsen told investors that fiscal 2015 is "the invest and reset year, largely is a function of our reduced promotions and store closing activity, we expect to see low double-digit revenue decline."
Shares of Coach are down 37% this year, and shares were off 2% to $33.85 on Friday.
The showdown between the two retailers heats up next week when they report earnings.
Michael Kors, which reports Monday morning, is expected to post earnings growth of 33% year over year to 81 cents a share for its fiscal first quarter. Revenue is expected to rise 34% to $861 million, according to consensus estimates tallied by Thomson Reuters. Kors warned at the end of May that gross margin in the first quarter would be slightly lower than last year. Management gave first-quarter guidance between 78 cents and 80 cents a share.
Coach is expected to report on Tuesday an earnings decline of 41% year over year to 53 cents a share for its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings ending in June. Revenue is expected to drop 11% to $1.09 billion, according to consensus.
Same-store sales are also starkly different between the two retailers. Quarterly comparable store sales at Kors are expected to rise by 20.3%. On the other hand, consensus estimates predict Coach's comps to fall by 21%, according to Consensus Metrix.
"Keep in mind as KORS continues down its path of expanding its distribution, it will likely put continued pressure on COH," Wells Fargo Securities analyst Paul Lejuez wrote in a July 31 research note.
--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.