Are Things Finally Looking Up for Mulberry?

The floundering British heritage brand reported a 21-percent rise in annual profits for the year ending March 31, 2017.
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A look from Mulberry's Fall 2017 collection, shown during London Fashion Week. Photo: Estrop/Getty Images

A look from Mulberry's Fall 2017 collection, shown during London Fashion Week. Photo: Estrop/Getty Images

Mulberry's last few years have been, as the kids say, a journey. Riding high on the coattails of Alexa Chung's über-buzzy handbag release in 2010 — and their similarly popular Del Rey bag, which then-designer Emma Hill named after songstress Lana Del Rey in 2012 — the British heritage label disastrously attempted to take the company further upmarket in 2013 after parting ways with Hill on account of "creative and operational conflict." It even went so far as to tap model-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne to design her own $954 bag for the brand, complete with its own Tim Walker-lensed ad campaign. This, of course, didn't exactly pan out as anticipated: Mulberry began consistently missing profit expectations in early 2014, later hiring Creative Director Johnny Coca and, most recently, adopting a direct-to-consumer (or "see now, buy now") runway format, effective for Spring 2018.

But after the aforementioned four-year walkabout, it looks like Mulberry is finally getting back on its feet. On Wednesday, the brand announced that its year-end sales had finished in the green for the first time in recent history, reporting a 21-percent lift in annual profits for the year ending March 31, 2017. Total revenue was up eight percent to £168.1 million (about $215.1 million) from £155.9 million ($199.5 million) in the same period last year, with an annual pretax profit of £7.5 million ($9.6 million).

This past year, its digital presence carried a lot of weight: Mulberry is reporting that revenue from its digital channels increased by 19 percent to represent 15 percent of group revenue, with new brick-and-mortar experiences in Shanghai and Hong Kong set to round out its in-store portfolio in the next 12 months.

"During the year we have made good progress. Our sales and profits are growing, enhancing our strong cash position," said Chief Executive Thierry Andretta in a statement. "Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in advancing our international development and increasing Mulberry's relevance to our customers' rapidly evolving lifestyle."

This boost may not be a result of Mulberry's new direct-to-consumer model (as it hasn't even taken effect yet), but it's certainly evidence enough that the brand is more conscious than ever of what its customers are looking for. And in 2017, that's not $1,000 handbags co-created with models-turned-actresses.

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