By  on June 17, 2010

LONDON — A surge in demand for handbags and small leather goods drove sales and profits up at Mulberry Group plc in the year ended March 31.

The British accessories brand, which is quoted on London’s AIM stock exchange, said Thursday that profits climbed 15 percent to 2.97 million pounds, or $4.75 million, from 2.58 million, or $4.13 million.

Sales in the 12-month period rose 23 percent to 72.1 million pounds, or $115.4 million, from 58.6 million pounds, or $93.8 million.

All figures have been calculated at average exchange rates for the period.

The upward trend is continuing: Retail sales were up 36 percent during the first 10 weeks of the current year, while wholesale deliveries for autumn are forecast to be 84 percent above last year.

Mulberry’s chairman and chief executive Godfrey Davis said the company is looking for a third retail unit in Manhattan and will be opening a showroom there as a base for the business in North America. Mulberry also plans to open its first showroom in Paris.

“The U.S. business is small but growing fast. In the first 10 weeks of the current year, the New York stores saw a 103 percent increase in sales, and wholesale is up 200 percent there. But I have to add we were coming from a low base,” he said.

In Asia, wholesale revenues are expected to increase by 100 percent this year, with Mulberry’s franchise partners planning to open stores in Sydney, Hong Kong, Korea, Qatar, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur over the next 12 months.

Davis added that Mulberry was also seeking planning approval to expand its factory in Somerset, England, to keep up with demand. The brand also manufactures in other countries including Turkey and Spain.

In the year ended March 31, Davis said, many wholesale clients had braced themselves for hard times and slashed their orders. When demand surged, they were left empty-handed.

Bestsellers in the period included the new Alexa bag — named for the British TV presenter Alexa Chung — and brand stalwarts the Bayswater, Mitzy and Daria ranges.

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