Mulberry Banks on Yang Mi's Star Power as It Expands in China

    After forming Mulberry Asia, the London-based brand is leveraging the online influence of major Chinese celebrities to help drive luxury consumers to its new stores.
    Yang Mi with Mulberry CEO Thierry Andretta. (Courtesy Photo)
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Fashion
    Yang Mi with Mulberry CEO Thierry Andretta. (Courtesy Photo)
    Yang Mi with Mulberry CEO Thierry Andretta. (Courtesy Photo)

    Mulberry is seeking to gain momentum in the Chinese market after posting slow global sales growth in the 10 weeks ending in June. With just a 1 percent rise in like-for-like sales, the British luxury leather brand failed to capitalize on the revival in Chinese consumer spending. However, the label is banking on several initiatives in Greater China—a new joint venture, new store openings and effectively leveraging celebrity endorsements—to change course.

    In April, Mulberry formed a partnership with its majority stakeholder, Christina Ong’s Challice Ltd., under the name "Mulberry Asia." The joint venture will set about further expanding the Mulberry brand in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Mulberry was also busy opening a Shanghai store in April, and in May it opened a Hong Kong boutique. Online, Mulberry has created a Chinese-language site for its e-commerce store.

    A major part of the company’s strategy this year involves omnichannel retail, integrating social media, e-commerce, and brick and mortar to drive sales. This week, Mulberry announced another store opening in Shanghai and invited actress Yang Mi for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The brand will likely be hoping to reap rewards from the association with Yang, who is a hot property after causing an online storm by wearing a nude Michael Kors dress at the Met Gala last month.

    In fact, Mulberry has already leveraged Yang Mi’s influence to create momentum for an online-to-offline event to celebrate opening its new Shanghai store. Mulberry invited its WeChat followers to leave a comment declaring which handbag from its latest collection they liked best and why. The two lucky winners will receive an in-store gift card worth nearly US1,000.

    Globally, the handbag company has been embracing the evolution of the internet's impact on fashion retail. Last month, Mulberry announced it would no longer debut its new collection at London Fashion Week. Instead, the label will make its Spring/Summer 2018 collection available to buy instantly in February, following private, by-appointment previews in September.

    In the past, Mulberry has spread word of its new collections among Chinese consumers by inviting well-known online influencers like Mr. Bags to attend its LFW shows (Mr. Bags talked us through the experience last season). An end to the LFW appearances means Mulberry will have to find alternative ways to reach out to buyers, although if the label’s digital aspirations in China are any indication, it likely has plenty of other strategies up its sleeve to boost its visibility.

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