Here we go round the Mulberry bush...again ! / by heathrowkennedy

Mulberry as a brand always seems to be in a state of hiatus, it emerges phoenix-like every couple of years and then splutters.  Last week it announced a 28% fall in pre-tax profits for the first six months of and its online sales are down.     This dip in performance coincides with the brands strategic transition from being a brand which has had relative success at the 'aspirational' luxury price point to one which commands a higher price.   In other words moving from approx £200 - £600 to £700 - £1500.  On the face of it there is nothing wrong with the ambition and, when one sizes the market and looks at the competition which successfully operates in that price point, you could agree that it is a smart move. Except it's not.

It's a great British brand.   It's been operating since 1971.   It's increasing it's British manufacturing.  All of these are strengths.   But it's never been a truly luxury brand, it has never been craved by the target.

What is now working against Mulberry is international expansion on someone elses (the competitions) terms - especially when it's so cynically described by their CEO, Bruno Guillon.    Here is an example of him talking about his store expansion program "Chinese shoppers, for instance, need to see us in Asia but also see us in the right locations when they travel abroad."

In essence, Mr Guillon is saying Mulberry wants to operate in the luxury category in Asia and create the illusion of a luxury brand in Europe where that demographic does not favour Mulberry.   This is both a shame for the brand and for the targeted customers, and guess what, they will wisen-up.

Luxury branding is more than simply a stratospheric pricing policy and "hanging out with the cool kids".   It requires substantiation and a pedigree - repositioning an existing brand upwards is never easy and basing it on a new retail strategy is dangerous.    All of this could change with a bold creative direction (pending a new creative director) and collections which catch both the imagination and the wave.    I suspect time is not on their side.