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BERLIN — As it steps up its international expansion, Mulberry is actively banking on the brand’s English identity to make a mark in foreign markets.
Mulberry’s first stand-alone store in Germany, which recently opened on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, is the latest in the company’s ongoing push in northern Europe. It joins directly operated shops at KaDeWe in Berlin, Oberpollinger in Munich and at the Frankfurt Airport. Mulberry chief executive officer Bruno Guillon said the company is also looking for prime retail space in cities like Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich.
“Historically we have done good business in Germany, and feel it’s time to open [more] stores there and set up a good distribution,” Guillon said.
He suggested that Mulberry’s current turnover in Germany “is not so important. We are quite small, and are really just starting. But the customer here appreciates the brand’s focus on quality,” he said, and is particularly receptive to the fact that many Mulberry products are made in England.
In the fiscal year ended March 31, Mulberry opened 17 stores, bringing the number of directly operated units up to 61 out of a total of 122 retail doors worldwide. Additionally, 15 to 20 DOS are slated to open in Europe, Asia, the U.S. and the Middle East within the current fiscal year. Though the majority of Mulberry’s directly operated and partner stores are still in the U.K., Guillon emphasized the brand’s potential in northern Europe, with a Vienna store set to join the current roster, and possibly a larger door in Paris. He also said there’s considerable movement in the U.S. as well. “We now have six stores, and will open at least four more this year, including Canada, with four to five stores more [to open] there every year.”
As for Berlin, he added, “It’s a big international city with a lot of energy. We weren’t specifically looking to be on the west versus east side, but when we come to a city, we want to be where people are used to shopping.”
Mulberry snapped up one of the last remaining plum sites — a former restaurant — on the designer-packed stretch of Ku’damm. Featuring the men’s and women’s accessories and women’s ready-to-wear collections in about 2,000 square feet of sales space, the store neighbors Rolex and Burberry, with Jil Sander just down the block, and Bottega Veneta, Hermès, Valentino and Louis Vuitton opposite. It’s the third door in Europe with Mulberry’s new store design, featuring light English oak and subtly simplified furnishings “give all the light to the product,” the ceo said.
“It’s obvious we’ll get some tourists, but we’ll be doing events and tactical marketing to make sure we’re talking to the Berliners,” said Guillon. The brand has collaborated with Berlin artist Frank Hülsbömer, to create a kinetic installation in the store that brings to mind Sputnik as well as a dissected disco ball. Hülsbömer also designed the geometric pastel structure in the current front window display.
Pointing to the pedestal on which his light projecting installation sits, Hülsbömer said, “I happened to have been offered glass from the Palast der Republik,” the former seat of the East German government which was demolished in 2008. “And then the Mulberry connection happened. It seemed to make sense to use it, as they wanted a site specific work with a Berlin connection.”
Mulberry is building a second factory in England scheduled to open this summer, which will double the share of bags produced in England to 40 to 45 percent. “We’re proud. You don’t see a lot of companies opening factories [at home], and hiring 300 people. We want to continue to reinforce production in England,” said Guillon. There is even talk of a third domestic production facility.
Guillon countered the perception that Mulberry has raised its prices to better compete with the big luxury players. “What’s very important is quality, but we’ve kept all our entry price points between 700 to 800 pounds [$1,084 to $1,239 at current exchange]. That may have gone up 7 to 10 percent because we’re buying better leather, but we are definitely keeping and developing the entry level,” he emphasized.
At the same time, Mulberry is expanding the price range to offer bags above 1,000 pounds, or $1,549, with some going up to 3,000 pounds, or $4,647, depending on the skins.