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Why Coach shares are up despite another sales drop

Coach's transformation is starting to take hold—though you may not know it by looking at its sales performance.

The handbag maker on Tuesday said its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year 2015 revenues fell 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively—taking a 20 percent hit for the year in the key North America region.

Despite this, the company's shares moved 3 percent higher after it outlined expectations for top-line growth to return in 2016, and North America same-store sales to return to positive territory by the end of that year.

"Importantly, our brand transportation gained momentum across our three key brand pillars: product, stores and marketing," CEO Victor Luis said.

Redesigned Coach store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Source: Coach
Redesigned Coach store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif.

In an effort to restore its reputation as a fashion-forward brand, Coach has been scaling back on promotions, shifting its merchandise toward leather goods and away from its oversaturated logo offerings, and updating its stores to have a more modern, luxurious feel.

Sales at these 150 locations, which have been a bright spot in the company's otherwise bleak earnings reports, continue to outpace those at its older stores. In North America, its 45 converted shops reported positive same-store sales in the fourth quarter.

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As such, the company plans to accelerate the rollout of these stores, estimating that by the end of this fiscal year, roughly 40 percent of its store base will adhere to this concept. That would be up from about 15 percent.

Coach also got a boost in the fourth quarter from its acquisition of footwear firm Stuart Weitzman, which contributed $43 million to its sales in the quarter.

Despite trends improving sequentially at Coach, the overall handbag market continues to struggle, forcing many players and department stores to ramp up promotions to move merchandise. Additionally, the company faces headwinds from a stronger U.S. dollar and slowing trends in tourist markets.

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Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Laura Champine upgraded her rating on Coach to "hold" from "sell" after its earnings report, saying the "company's continued market share declines and the headwinds it faces during its brand transformation efforts appear fairly reflected at the stock's current valuation."

Still, Champine cautioned that she expects Coach's market share to further deteriorate, after falling to 17 percent last year. That was down from 23 percent the prior year.

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"We believe Coach still faces significant challenges in 2016 as it continues its attempts to revitalize its brand while fending off aggressive competition," she said.

Competitors Kate Spade and Michael Kors report earnings Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.