from a company executive visiting Birmingham
Nancy Axilrod, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for the luxury handbag and accessory maker, was the speaker at the inaugural luncheon for the Birmingham Business Alliance’s Women’s Business Council at the Sheraton Birmingham.
She talked about a professional journey that started when she was a young, single mother with a high school education living in a small town in New Jersey. Now, in her current role at New York based Coach, she oversees global factory compliance, employment counseling, contract negotiation and oversight of intellectual property.
When asked how people can best spot a fake handbag, she said price and selling location are key.
For example, she said, if they’re priced at $10 or $20 at a flea market, they’re likely not authentic.
“We tell people to stick with common sense,” Axilrod said. “Price and location is a really good indicator. We don’t sell at flea markets, T shirt stores or state fairs.”
As for certain stitching, labels or other aspects of the purse’s construction that confirm its authenticity, Axilrod said the company only lets law enforcement in on those details. It doesn’t want to help counterfeiters duplicate the goods.
While there is an aspect of flattery when it comes to fakes “You’re really in trouble when no one is counterfeiting you,” she said. they also diminish the brand. And that’s why Coach has a zero tolerance policy on the issue.
The company works closely with law enforcement and also has one or two private investigators in every state to follow up on tips.
“We send out investigators,
a bit like a drug buy,” she said. “Then we figure out whether we’re going to get law enforcement involved or sue them civilly.”
Coach depends on tips from the public to report what they see, and there is a hotline and email listed in the counterfeit education section of its website.
Axilrod said she didn’t plan to have the career she has now. As a young girl, her mother taught her things like how to run a home and throw a good dinner party, but there was no talk about having a career.
But after she married young, had a baby and later divorced, she found herself searching for a way to support her child. Her most significant work experience up to that point was answering the phone for the Miss America Pageant organization, fielding trivia questions about contestants for callers.
But eventually, Axilrod made her way into law school, which opened up a new world. She would go on to serve as general counsel for Carl Icahn’s casino, The Sands, in Atlantic City and later as one of the billionaire investor’s personal attorneys before she landed at Coach.
Axilrod encouraged the women in attendance to take charge of their careers and be assertive enough to ask for raises or promotions or transfers when they feel such moves are deserved. Men tend to be better at this, while women are often just appreciative to have a job.
She also talked about the value of not having a set plan when it comes to their careers. Do what you’re doing right now to the best of your ability, but don’t miss the chance to take an unexpected path, she said.
“I’ve reinvented myself several times now, and I expect I’ll reinvent myself again,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself and take a road that perhaps you never thought about,
if it presents itself.”