LONDON — Mulberry is resizing and restructuring at pace: One month after revealing plans to lay off 25 percent of its staff, the company has confirmed it will no longer offer ready-to-wear or footwear, and will instead focus on its core leather goods category.
Last month, the brand had said recovery from COVID-19 store closures would be “gradual” due to social-distancing measures, a slowdown in footfall and lack of international tourism, and that it needed to act swiftly to manage its operations and cost base.
On Friday, Mulberry confirmed it was shelving the rtw and footwear collections, which had been produced under license by Onward Luxury Group since 2015, as part of its push to become a 360-degree lifestyle brand.
Mulberry’s shares on the London Stock Exchange closed down 0.6 percent at 1.80 pounds at the close of trading on Friday.
“We have made the decision with our partner OLG not to renew our ready-to-wear and footwear licenses in order to focus on our core product category of leather goods, which make up around 90 percent of our turnover,” a Mulberry spokesperson said.
The person added that the fall 2020 collection of rtw and accessories, which is in stores now, will be the last one it sells under license, although the brand “will continue to develop and invest in our other lifestyle categories across soft accessories, eyewear and jewelry, alongside leather goods.”
Back in 2015, chief executive officer Thierry Andretta had wanted full footwear and rtw lines that channeled the brand’s British roots and bohemian flair. In the past, the brand had shown rtw and footwear on the runway, but it was always a very small part of the business.
The rtw collection that was produced and distributed by OLG had an advanced contemporary price point that ranged from about 250 pounds to 1,500 pounds, while the footwear had stickers about 20 percent lower than many of the big luxury brands.
But even then Andretta stressed that leather goods would always be the driver of business.
Women’s rtw was first launched under the brand’s founder and former owner Roger Saul in 1979, with a men’s collection introduced in 1985. Mulberry produced rtw collections on and off over the years, and sometimes pieces were designed purely to accompany bags and accessories on the runway, in presentations or ad campaigns.
The latest rtw collections, designed by Mulberry’s former creative director Johnny Coca and produced by OLG starting with fall 2016, showed during London Fashion Week and during static presentations in Paris. Coca won largely positive reviews, but the clothing never eclipsed the brand’s core handbags and accessories offer.
Mulberry is the largest manufacturer of luxury leather goods in the U.K., and makes about 50 percent of its accessories collections at its factories in Somerset, England.
It is understood that Mulberry is still in talks with staff and unions about layoffs, and some 474 jobs are at risk across the global business.
While its stores were shut during lockdown, Mulberry continued to trade through its digital channels, which operated throughout the pandemic in all markets without interruption. While digital sales have been robust, Mulberry said they could not fully offset the decline brought on by the store closures.
Some 95 percent of Mulberry’s sales are direct-to-consumer via its omnichannel business model.
It has been a year of change so far for Mulberry: In March, Coca left the company after five years and later joined Louis Vuitton, while Mulberry has shifted into high gear in the sustainability arena.
Earlier this year, it launched the 100 percent sustainable leather Portobello Tote and the M Collection, a capsule of bags and outerwear crafted from a blend of Econyl-branded regenerated nylon and sustainable cotton.
The brand has long urged its customers to send back bags to its Somerset factories to be repaired, and has a dedicated division that stockpiles hardware, leather and other materials so that even the oldest models can get a new life.
Earlier this year, as part of its quest for transparency across the business, the brand decided to harmonize the prices of its leather goods for customers, whether they’re shopping online or off-line in Shanghai, London or Los Angeles.
Mulberry began rolling out global pricing last year with the launch of its collaboration with Acne Studios, and continued in that vein with the eco-conscious M Collection. The new, standard pricing was achieved by bringing international stickers in line with U.K. ones, inclusive of any local sales taxes, VAT or duties.