Mulberry boss seeks clarity from Mike Ashley over House of Fraser closures

The boss of luxury bag maker Mulberry has pleaded for clarity over the future of House of Fraser stores after the retailer’s collapse took a chunk out of its sales and profits.

Speaking to the Press Association, chief executive Thierry Andretta said Mulberry would continue to trade from the chain following its sale to Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct but needs to know which branches will close.

“We need to understand which ones they will keep in the portfolio, and which will fit in our strategy,” he said.

“But we are keen to continue because we also have a really loyal customer with House of Fraser.”

Mike Ashley has estimated that he will keep 80% of House of Fraser stores open after he bought the company out of administration in August, meaning around 12 are likely to shut their doors.

But only three closures in Swindon, Edinburgh and Hull have so far been confirmed.

House of Fraser
House of Fraser

Mulberry has 18 concessions in House of Fraser, but the collapse and subsequent troubles of the department store have impacted trading.

The brand’s UK sales dropped by 11% in the six months to the end of September.

Updating on current trading, the company said footfall continues to be weaker in House of Fraser stores.

Mulberry took a one-off hit to profits of £2.1 million as a result of the House of Fraser collapse during the period. Its launch in Korea also ate into the bottom line, costing £2.5 million. Overall reported loss before tax was £8.2 million.

But the brand expects a strong Christmas trading period and growing international sales in the second half of the year.

In the UK, Mulberry has agreed to switch from a wholesale model to concessions in John Lewis & Partners stores. This will increase the range of Mulberry products available to shoppers and builds on the brand’s “direct to consumer” strategy.

Mr Andretta said that the brand could consider creating a product for the department store, which has been increasing the amount of exclusive stock in its stores.