Mulberry Ekes Out Profit as New Creative Head Coca Settles in

Mulberry Group Plc said its revival remains on track after digital investment and more efficient practices at its U.K. factories helped the handbag maker swing to a first-half profit.

Pretax profit for the six months through September was 60,000 pounds ($91,000) compared with a loss of 1.1 million pounds a year earlier, Somerset, England-based Mulberry said Thursday in a statement. Digital sales increased 20 percent.

Mulberry is in the middle of a turnaround after reversing a plan to move upscale and bringing in a new chief executive officer and creative director. Adding more handbags priced between 500 pounds and 1,000 pounds has helped rekindle demand, while initiatives such as enabling clients to order online and collect from stores have also boosted sales. Creative Director Johnny Coca, who joined from Celine in July, will unveil his debut collection in February.

“This is a good performance with costs generally contained and revenue robust in a tough market,” said Julian Easthope, an analyst at Barclays.

Mulberry has been insulated from cooling luxury demand in China as it gets more than 80 percent of sales in Europe.

Like-for-like retail sales advanced 5 percent in the 10 weeks ended Dec. 5, half the rate of the first half, because efforts to reboot the brand started to take effect last year, Mulberry said. The company has also seen fewer tourists shopping in Paris and London since the terror attacks in the French capital last month, Chairman Godfrey Davis said by phone. Still, the reduction in visits to its stores has been partly compensated for by increased online sales, said Chief Executive Officer Thierry Andretta.

Coca, meanwhile, is working hard “to re-base the new Mulberry universe,” said Andretta, who took over in April. “Every category will fit together including the price point” and “we will have also some reinterpretation of the existing products,” he said. Coca’s designs will hit stores in June.

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