LONDON — Sales and profits at Mulberry Group were broadly flat in the year ended March 31, as the company continued to invest in new subsidiaries in Asia.
On Wednesday, the group announced it had taken its South Korean operations in-house via the creation of a new, majority-owned company with its existing South Korean partner SHK Holdings Ltd. Mulberry Korea will commence trading by autumn 2018.
The company said Mulberry and SHK will together invest 4.6 million pounds to purchase assets and develop the business, which consists of 18 points of sale such as concessions, outlets and duty-free, while a South Korean mulberry.com site and omnichannel platform will form part of the new business.
“The new partnership will offer the opportunity to broaden the product range and provide greater service to the customer. Mulberry is at an exciting moment and we are delighted to enter this next phase to further develop this great British brand in South Korea,” said Inn Shick Lee, chairman of SHK.
Mulberry Korea will locate its head office in Seoul and will manage all retail distribution and digital fulfillment for the market. Mulberry will have a 60 percent share in Mulberry Korea with the remaining 40 percent owned by SHK. The group said it anticipates incremental costs of about 3 million pounds during the current financial year.
Mulberry chief executive officer Thierry Andretta said the new South Korean platform would focus on enhancing the customer experience in the region and was a “key milestone” in the company’s international development strategy.
Sales in the financial year edged up 1 percent to 169.7 million pounds, with retail sales advancing 3 percent. Mulberry said the U.K. was broadly flat, while international sales were up 20 percent.
Profit was flat at 4.9 million pounds due to start-up costs and the net operating expenses of new Asia subsidiaries. Profit before tax climbed 36 percent to 11.3 million pounds, while the company’s cash at the end of the year was 25.1 million pounds.
Andretta said the company made “significant progress” during the year on international strategy, with subsidiaries in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. He added that while international growth was gaining momentum, the U.K. market, Mulberry’s stronghold, remained challenging.
“We will continue to invest in our strategy to develop Mulberry into a global luxury brand to deliver increased shareholder value,” he said.
Last year’s trends have continued into the first quarter, with retail like-for-like sales down 7 percent in the 10 weeks to June 2. International sales climbed 1 percent, while U.K. sales fell 9 percent due to lower footfall and fewer tourists, the company said.
British brands operating in the U.K., which saw a spike in sales following the Brexit vote and the subsequent drop in the value of the pound, are seeing business fall back to pre-referendum levels. Mulberry is due to open a new store on Regent Street later this year.