Action News uncovered a business right here in the Valley selling Coach bags up to 60-percent off of what you'd normally pay at Coach or at a department store.
The company is called "Real Coach Deals." The owners advertise on Facebook, showing dozens of purses every week. They also advertise in the Fresno Bee's classified section ... touting the product and its authenticity.
"A big selection. They had a lot of purses." Doris Moscatelli of Madera Ranchos bought a bag from "Real Coach Deals" last month.
She paid $169.00 for it. The original price tag was $300.00. Doris admits she was wary of the product and the business itself, but decided to buy anyway. "Well, they're right out there in the open. I think if it was illegal, they'd be caught."
"Real Coach Deals" is located inside "The Palace Courtyard" on Blackstone Avenue in North Fresno. After seeing the deals online and in the paper, we decided to do some shopping of our own. I bought this purse for $135.00. The tag shows a retail price of $348.00. I checked with two certified retail stores in the area ... and both confirmed, this purse is real ... not a knock off. So, we decided to ask the business owners themselves ... how can this be possible?
"Are these purses 100-percent authentic coach?
"Yes, we guarantee that they are. We have no doubt. We get them from an authorized distributor of Coach." Diana Hovland and her husband Peter created "Real Coach Deals" less than six months ago. It started out online ... and has now grown to also include a set of indoor display cases.
The couple admits business has been tough. They say their biggest challenge has been convincing people that the bags are real and the company is legit. "We don't steal them. I have invoices from the company we buy them from, I have lot numbers, stock numbers, I mean easily verifiable that these are where we get them from."
But, where exactly they get these bags from -- remains a mystery. The Hovland's won't disclose everything because they say they fear others will copy their business and create competition.
They did tell us the purses are bought every month in bulk from a wholesaler. They say, that wholesaler works with a major American department store who sells them the bags that are returned and cannot be re-sold.
Some of the bags sold at "Real Coach Deals" have stains or slight marks on them, including the one we bought.
Copyright attorney Andrew Coombs, who has worked with Coach in the past, says although department stores do sell their extra goods to wholesalers, normally you won't see them re-sold by smaller vendors. "There's a system of wholesalers and jobbers who will source that product from retailers and resell it to companies like TJ Maxx, which operates Marshalls or other discounters."
Coombs says in general, with prices like these on designer items, consumers need to be cautious. The product could come from the gray market ... the business of trading merchandise through channels which, while legal ... is unauthorized by the original manufacturer. "Especially with luxury items, I think when the price is too good to be true, it should act as a kinda red flag."
Action News contacted Coach's corporate headquarters in New York about "Real Coach Deals." An attorney for the company told us they were not aware of this Fresno business.
"Does coach know you're doing this?"
"Yes, they do."
Coach confirms they've started an investigation. Meanwhile, "Real Coach Deals" is still open for business. The Hovlands say they stand by their operation, and so do their clientele.