By  on June 22, 2007

LONDON — British accessories and ready-to-wear brand Mulberry is branching out.

Mulberry's goal is to be recognized as a full-fledged luxury brand rather than simply the accessories company that makes the Roxanne and Bayswater bags. "Our mission is to convey the brand and build the company on an international level," said Godfrey Davis, chairman and chief executive of Mulberry. "In the U.S. in particular, we've sold a lot of Roxanne and Bayswater bags into department store chains. But customers have been buying into the bags, rather than into the Mulberry brand."

Over the past year, the company has trimmed its U.S. wholesale business, and opened four freestanding stores in Manhattan; at the Americana Mall in Manhasset, N.Y., and in Los Angeles and Atlantic City.

The company has boosted its U.S. marketing budget this year to more than $3 million from $500,000, and is planning a multipronged campaign, including ads on New York taxicabs, public relations events and advertising in titles such as Vogue and The New York Times.

On July 4, the company will host a party at the Hotel Marais to mark the opening of its Paris store on Rue Saint-Honoré, near Colette, which will stock the full range of accessories and rtw. Mulberry design director Stuart Vevers will DJ along with Giles Deacon. Models Agyness Deyn and Lily Cole will cohost the party.

In September, during New York Fashion Week, Mulberry will join forces with the CFDA and Vogue to host a party on the rooftop of the Gramercy Park Hotel. The party will take place before the Marc by Marc Jacobs show. A few days later in London, Vevers and Julie Verhoeven, who has designed a capsule clothing and accessories collection for Mulberry, will host a tea party to kick off London Fashion Week. That party will take place at the Julie for Mulberry pop-up store on Westbourne Grove. The temporary store, which Verhoeven will paint and design with her whimsical prints, will remain for six weeks, after which it will revert to being a Mulberry store.

The pop-up store will sell Verhoeven's capsule collection for fall, which includes a chiffon dress, a quilted shopper with a gold chain strap, a cotton T-shirt, a scarf and a ring-pull key chain. On an environmental note, Mulberry will give out 5,000 biodegradable, Made in England bags featuring the Julie Verhoeven for Mulberry print, which features a woman's face, a rose and a mulberry leaf.Mulberry's total worldwide expenditure on marketing will be $10 million this year. "Our main marketing push has just begun," said Davis. "What we really want is sustained growth in the U.S. and foreign markets."

The company also has been focusing on building its retail presence and reducing wholesale accounts, both in the U.K. and U.S. The company plans to open a flagship at the Hong Kong Elements shopping center in October, and a Glasgow unit in the fall. The U.K. generates about 51 percent of Mulberry's sales, and Davis said there is scope for good penetration around the world. Although accessories account for 90 percent of revenues, Davis said rtw is still very important.

"We now have a successful design team in place," he said, referring to Amy Roberts, who was formerly at Ghost and Galliano, and Keith Warren, a designer for Louis Vuitton men's wear.

Mulberry's latest financial results, released Thursday, show a company in steady growth mode. Sales in the fiscal year ended March 31 grew 4 percent to 54.1 million pounds, or $108.2 million, from 43.4 million pounds, or $86.8 million.

Retail sales in the U.K. for the first 10 weeks of the current financial year are up by 31 percent, the company said in a statement.

Profits for the 2006-07 fiscal year dipped 17 percent to 3.9 million pounds, or $7.9 million, from 4.8 million pounds, or $9.6 million. Davis said the drop was due exclusively to one-off tax charges. Pretax profits rose 1.2 percent to 6.2 million pounds, or $12.4 million, from 6.1 million pounds, or $12.2 million.p;

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