Mulberry sees signs of improvement after CEO’s departure

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HANDBAG MAKER Mulberry slumped to a first-half loss as it counted the cost of an ill-fated push upmarket but said a return to its lower priced roots had seen sales rise more recently.

The firm, whose aspirations for a more exclusive luxury position led to three profit warnings this year, posted a loss of £1.1m for the half to September 30, compared to a pre-tax profit of £7.2m a year ago.

Sales fell 17 per cent in the half with margins also down as it pushed more £500-£800 bags in a bid to win back customers put off by the higher priced products championed by ousted boss Bruno Guillon.

Mulberry veteran Godfrey Davis, who took over from Mr Guillon in March, said the take-up had been good with total retail sales up 8 per cent in the nine weeks to November 29 and 2 per cent on a like-for-like basis, boosted by online growth following new services such as click and collect.

“After a difficult couple of years, the steps that we have taken to return Mulberry to growth are beginning to bear fruit,” said Mr Davis, who has also had to grapple with tough industry conditions such as lower tourist numbers and weaker demand in key markets like China.

Last month the firm named Celine’s Johnny Coca as its creative director, replacing Emma Hill, who was behind its successful Alexa and Del Ray bags and quit over a year ago.

Mulberry, which makes more than 60 per cent of its sales in Britain, has a store in the upmarket Victoria Quarter in Leeds and an outlet in York.

Critics said Frenchman Mr Guillon, who joined from Hermes, tried to fix a British brand that wasn’t broken and tried to make it more exclusive.