Recent relevant markets defined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should cause concern. From online superstores and virtual reality dedicated fitness apps, the lines around relevant marketplaces are increasingly creative. More recently, the agency breaks form, not by inventing a market, but rather by ignoring the impossibility of quantifying differences in aesthetics. Given consumer preferences and differences in personal style, developing an economically reflective relevant market in the handbag space is about as likely as convincing a Chanel connoisseur to shop at Walmart.  

The most recent complaint focuses on the proposed merger of Tapestry Inc. and Capri Holdings, which would bring the fashion brands Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Coach under one umbrella. The FTC asserts that this would reduce competition in the relevant market for accessible luxury handbags. The agency defines an accessible luxury handbag as “one that is crafted predominantly in Asia from high-quality materials with fine craftsmanship at affordable prices.” What makes a price affordable isn’t specified, but the complaint states mass-market offerings are typically under $100, meaning accessible luxury would likely start around that price point.

At first glance, the category of accessible luxury is not a new idea. Back in 2003, the Harvard Business Review examined the phenomenon of “luxury for the masses,” and credited it to the growing purchasing power of the middle market. The same article also emphasized that to excel in this market, brands had to reach both up and down in their pricing, meaning that these brands often reach differently priced consumers all under one umbrella.

According to the websites of these brands, prices range from less than $150 to over $500 for Kate Spade, almost $3,000 for Michael Kors, and  $10,000 for Coach. Based on prices alone, these three brands would appear to operate in different markets depending on the product, or at the very least target different customers.

Apart from prices, the lines the FTC draws around the relevant market seem arbitrary and contradict themselves. Limits include the requirement that a brand sells on multiple sales channels and has a no discounting policy. Under such specifications, the FTC asserts that true luxury brands, such as Valentino, would not be competitors.

Read the full Real Clear Markets article here.

Tirzah Duren is the Vice President of Policy for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational organization. For more information about the Institute, visit or follow us on Twitter (X) @ConsumerPal.