In 1971, Roger Saul began selling leather belts near his parents’ home in Bath, England. Forty years later, his brand—Mulberry—has become a hot fashion brand.
Some highly strategic moves over the last few years — largely the success of signing on uber-cool British television personality and model Alexa Chung to launch, what has become one of the company’s most popular handbags, the Alexa, Mulberry is now also the top-performing fashion retail stock. Mulberry’s growth is expected to continue with gains in overseas growth, according to analysts.
One of Mulberry’s overseas targets is China. The company opened its first Chinese outlet in January: a Beijing store, which is already profitable. Over the next ten months, Mulberry plans to open more stores worldwide, including more Chinese stores as well as sites in New York, Amsterdam, Germany, Korea, and Bangkok.
“It’s still a bigger brand than the business,” said Fincap Analyst David Stoddart.
And its small size is what will allow Mulberry to continue its growth. The company has a strong presence in Britain, but its international presence is relatively small compared to rival brands. Its product line also has room to grow, with the possibility of adding products like perfume and eyeglasses.
Unlike many companies seeking a foothold in China, Mulberry is not seeking ways to incorporate an Asian influence in its designs. The company prides itself on its English identity; half of Mulberry’s 86 shops and department store concessions are in the U.K., and 30 percent of its bags are made in its Chilcompton, Somerset factory.
But Mulberry has international ties as well. In 2002, Roger Saul was ousted as CEO, and company control went to Christina Ong, a Singaporean billionaire who is a major distributor of luxury brands in Asia. With Ong’s guiding hand, it is likely that China will be seeing much more of Mulberry.