Mulberry is planning to expand its UK factory after the Somerset-based facilities helped the handbag-maker to avoid the supply chain problems dogging companies that rely on production abroad.
Thierry Andretta, the chief executive of the British luxury brand, said about 60% of its products were now made in the UK, up from about half before the pandemic. He said Mulberry had added one extra production line, employing about 50 people, to its UK factory in the past year and was likely to add another if sales continued to grow at a similar pace.
Mulberry said sales increased 34% to £66m in the six months to 25 September, compared with £49m in the same period in 2020 as it bounced back from pandemic-related high street lockdowns. Half-year revenue was £69m two years earlier.
The sales recovery helped the company make pre-tax profits of £10.2m in the half year, compared with a £2.4m loss in 2020, although the 2021 figure included £5.7m from selling a lease in Paris.
Mulberry’s share price jumped by 24% on Wednesday morning to 375p, its highest level since May, as Andretta said the company was “well placed” for the crucial Christmas period.
Andretta said Mulberry had taken the “bold decision” to focus on UK production because it had a strong mix of flexibility, efficiency and quality after years of investment. He added that production had been aided by Mulberry stocking up on key materials and components ahead of Brexit.
“Some months were really challenge but we are really proud of what the team achieved,” he said.
Mulberry avoided the kind of shortages that have forced some fashion companies, including Germany’s Hugo Boss and Italy’s Benetton, to bring production closer to their home countries.
Supply chain delays, caused by paused production in overseas factories during the pandemic, transport snarl ups and driver shortages, have been particularly problematic for fast fashion companies at the cheaper end of the market that rely on getting ever-changing designs to market quickly.
The UK online retailer Asos said last month that the disruption would affect its profits, while Boohoo also warned about the impact of higher freight costs. Next and Superdry this month also cautioned about delays, which in Superdry’s case may be up to six weeks
Mulberry had been a takeover target for the retail tycoon Mike Ashley after a difficult 2020 in which it cut one-quarter of its global workforce. But on Wednesday the company said UK sales had recovered strongly as shoppers returned to stores after the end of the last Covid-19 lockdown. Rising sales in Asia, driven by a strong online business, also made up for the loss of lucrative tourist traffic in its home market, it added.
Andretta said the relationship with Ashley was “quite good and relaxing” with the company meeting his Frasers Group twice a year to discuss the results.