A Mark Cross 'Grace' bag.

Mark Cross is making plans to expand its reach in Japan.

The handbag brand has signed a distribution deal with Bluebell Group to beef up its business in the world’s third-largest economy. Their partnership begins with Mark Cross’ pre-spring 2018 collection.

Bluebell Group, based in Hong Kong, is an Asia-Pacific distributor of fragrance, beauty, fashion, jewelry, food and tobacco products. It has worked with brands including Perrin Paris, Vanessa Seward and Repetto.

The New York-based Mark Cross — founded in 1845 and relaunched in 2012 — has limited distribution in Japan, with just nine stockists there and the bulk of sales attributed to Dover Street Market in Ginza. While about 70 percent of Mark Cross’ sales are to consumers outside the U.S., Japan represents only a “small percentage” of that share.

Mark Cross president and chief executive officer Neal J. Fox said he hopes the brand’s Japanese sales will increase 100 percent each year over the next two to three years.

“From my perspective, I have always felt that the Japanese market is a perfect fit for our product. The consumers have a deep understanding of fine-quality leather goods, there is a commitment to excellence there and an understanding that is compatible with our brand. I’d like to see it grow as substantially as possible, hopefully 10 to 15 percent of total revenue,” Fox said of his goals for the market.

While Mark Cross’ partnership with the Bluebell Group aims to grow brand presence in the region, distribution will still be kept relatively limited. “We are a limited distribution brand and our philosophy and approach to distribution collectively throughout the world is to be careful about where we go. I think in tandem with Bluebell we will approach things the same way,” Fox noted.

In contrast to Japan, Mark Cross’ business in South Korea is burgeoning without any real investment in strategy or expansion there. About 10 percent of global business comes through the nation, with stockist partners like 10 Corso Como Seoul and Boon the Shop finding out about the label, “by word of mouth.”

After Japan, the brand will look to tackle China — where it sells through limited channels, including Lane Crawford.

Said Fox: “We’re just really beginning to make significant inroads in Asia.”

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