By  on November 18, 2008

LONDON — British brand Mulberry this week shuttered two U.S. stores in a bid to tighten up and refocus its operations in the region.

Mulberry chief operating officer Lisa Montague said the company has closed its units at the Pier Shops at Caesars in Atlantic City, N.J., and at the Americana Mall in Manhasset, N.Y., because they were not of strategic importance in the long term.

“Atlantic City was a risky strategy for us to begin with, because the brand is so young in the U.S. We expected to have a higher footfall there, but the result was not what we had hoped,” she said adding the clientele was a transient one, and therefore a difficult target for marketing.

As for Manhasset, Montague said Mulberry is not well established enough to thrive in that particular environment. “We didn’t have the brand recognition to stop the traffic going from one end of the mall to the other,” she said. “It’s not the place to launch a brand.” The Atlantic City store opened in the spring of 2007, while the Manhasset store made its debut in late 2006.

Montague stressed Mulberry’s stores on Bleecker Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan and on Melrose in Los Angeles all had healthy sales and would remain open. Mulberry also has about 30 wholesale accounts for its accessories in the U.S., and also its men’s wear through Barneys New York.

She would not supply sales or growth figures for the U.S., as Mulberry is in a blackout period before the release of its interim results on December 10.

Montague added the company would further build its brand in the U.S. via the Internet. Mulberry launched the U.S. arm of its Web site last month. Worldwide, mulberry.com is the brand’s second-highest grossing store, after the Bond Street unit.

“Sales in the first four weeks of the U.S. site opening suggest this is a very exciting opportunity for us — in an enormous territory,” said Montague, adding the logistics for the new site will be handled from Mulberry’s warehouse in Secaucus, N.J. She added the Bayswater bag — and its various iterations — account for 40 percent of U.S. sales.

In a further bid to boost U.S. business, the brand will stage a presentation of its fall collection at Soho House on Feb. 17 during New York Fashion Week. It will follow up with a similar presentation during London Fashion Week on Feb. 23.

In other news, the brand opened its first freestanding unit in the Middle East at the new Dubai Mall last week and plans to open stores in malls in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; and Doha, Qatar in the spring. It also plans to open a store in Athens, Greece, at the same time.

Montague said Mulberry plans to expand its factory in Somerset, England, to accommodate increasing production. Mulberry is one of the few British luxury brands that continues to produce in the U.K.

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