NEW YORK (AP) - Coach's longtime CEO Lew Frankfort, who transformed what had been a small leather goods business into a global luxury brand, will step down next year. He will be replaced by its current head of international operations.
The upscale purse and accessories seller said Thursday that Victor Luis, who spearheaded the company's fast growth into Asia, will become CEO in January.
Frankfort will be executive chairman.
Frankfort, 66, joined Coach in 1979 as a vice president of business development. Named chairman and CEO in 1995, he shepherded Coach through an initial public offering in 2000 and oversaw the company's growth into a global luxury business. Coach now runs more than 500 stores in North America and has locations around the world.
Luis, 46, became president of Coach's international business a year ago after joining the New York-based company in 2006. Coach on Thursday appointed him president of the company and chief commercial officer, and named him to the board.
The management change comes as Coach grapples with a challenging global economy and steep price cuts by competitors. The handbag maker just finished a muted holiday season, with revenue at North American stores open at least a year down 2 percent during its holiday quarter. That's a key indicator of retailer's health.
Coach is taking steps to rev up growth. It is trying to make its stores more inviting by opening shoe salons inside its shops, highlighting its footwear collections. And to deal with growing competition from rivals like Michael Kors Holdings Inc., Coach last year launched its Legacy collection of handbags inspired by classic styles in the company's archives.
"Coach is a great company with exceptional brand and business equities and a strong and seasoned leadership team," said Luis in a statement. "Together with Lew, we will build upon the company's strong foundation, leveraging the global opportunity, while continuing to evolve the Coach brand."
Shares slipped 10 cents to $48.67 in premarket trading Thursday.
AP Business Writer Bree Fowler contributed to this report in New York.