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Ben Sherman owner pushes pedal on global expansion

Ben Sherman’s US owner is embarking on international expansion with new stores for the brand in the UK, US, Middle East and Asia, as well as opening new wholesale accounts and expanding its product categories.

New York-based Marquee Brands bought the British heritage menswear brand from US group Oxford Industries for £40.8m in July 2015, and has spent the last 18 months stabilising and refocusing the business.

“We wanted to refocus the operating model, rebuild the brand image and stabilise the business from the disarray we inherited,” said Marquee Brands president Michael DeVirgilio.

“We are now in a good state and we are starting to push down the pedal – it is not an overnight situation, but we are starting the rollout process.”

The company is poised to open new stores in Birmingham and Liverpool next month, and is looking for further retail expansion in Germany and Canada. In the US it will also open new stores, after last year closing all three that were in the “wrong” locations.

Marquee Brands has opened five Ben Sherman stores in China, and plans to have around 25 in the next few years.

“We are also reviewing opportunities for Korea and Japan, so Asia is certainly a focus,” said DeVirgilio. “We are negotiating final terms on entry into Latin America and looking to enter the Middle East in 2018, too.”

Ben Sherman has 56 stores internationally and plans to double that in two years.

“With the retail sector as it is, we can do pop-ups to test the market and we have a very creative strategy for retail – the opportunities are there,” he said. “It was always our intention to expand the brand on a global basis.”

“We are also seeing very substantial wholesale growth in our core markets of the UK and US,” he said. “We have signed two new department stores – Macy’s and Dillard’s – which gives us 200 new retail doors.”

In the UK, retail, wholesale and ecommerce is being handled by menswear supplier BMB Clothing, which acquired the UK licence for Ben Sherman from BSGL 1963 as part of a pre-pack administration last year.

In terms of product category expansion, DeVirgilio said there had been a lot of experimentation under previous owners, but that Marquee’s plan was to ensure Ben Sherman is developed as a lifestyle brand. Its categories through licence partners now include kidswear, loungewear, underwear and men’s jewellery in North America, as well as bedding globally.

The firm launched a Made to Measure tailoring service in its UK full-price stores for autumn 16 and will now be rolled out further.

“In categories such as footwear, we are seeing double-digit growth,” he said.

Ben Sherman moved its design office above its Commercial Street store in Spitalfields, east London, last year when the lease expired on its Clerkenwell office. The firm has around 20 people in its design team based in the UK. Its corporate office is based in New York.


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