By  on December 12, 2005

LONDON — Sales of handbags and leather accessories boosted profits at Mulberry Group plc to 1.6 million pounds, or $2.78 million, from a loss of 107 million pounds, or $186.2 million, in the first half ended Sept. 30.

Sales rocketed 58 percent to 19.1 million pounds, or $33.2 million, from 12.1 million pounds, or $21.1 million.

In the previous half, sales growth had been 36 percent, the company said in a statement.

Mulberry has been undergoing a steady turnaround since 2002, when new management stepped in to stem years of losses and hammer out a viable growth strategy.

Now more than 90 percent of Mulberry's sales come from accessories, and orders from new markets such as the U.S., Asia and Japan increased significantly during the half, the company said. Orders in those markets jumped to 20 percent of overall orders, from 5 percent.

"We have delivered strong sales and profit growth by focusing on handbags and leather accessories," Godfrey Davis, Mulberry's chairman and chief executive, said in the statement.

"Demand continues to grow in the U.K. and Europe. The expansion of our business in the U.S.A., Asia and Japan is proving successful."

Davis added that the future is bright. The wholesale accessories order book for spring 2006 is about 85 percent ahead of the previous period last year. Wholesale sales now account for about half of the company's turnover, with the rest coming from Mulberry's own stores.

Mulberry's U.K. stores continue to trade strongly, Davis said. The growth rate, however, will decline in the second half due to tough comparisons with the corresponding period last year.

As reported, Mulberry has picked Steven Meisel to shoot its spring 2006 campaign, which showcases designer Stuart Vevers' first collection for the brand. The campaign was designed by Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, and it breaks in the January issues of British Vogue and W, WWD's sister publication.

On the retail front, the brand will open its first Edinburgh unit in February, a second store in Thailand in early March and a unit in Taiwan at the end of March.

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