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Ben Sherman to cut 150 UK stockists in move upmarket

Ben Sherman is cutting its UK distribution by 20% over the next year as it moves to bring the domestic brand in line with its more premium global positioning.

The move will affect up to 150 stockists as the label reduces its UK accounts to 600, resulting in an initial hit to UK turnover.

This will be counteracted by a new strategy to grow the brand's retail and wholesale business overseas.

UK managing director David Boyne would not disclose which stockists would be ditched, but said the review of UK distribution would favour more premium-end retailers.

"Over the next weeks and months we will be communicating the strategy to those accounts we will be moving away from or changing the way we work with," said Boyne.

As part of the move, Ben Sherman will bring its entire clothing range under the Black & Orange label, which is currently only sold internationally and in its standalone stores and online in the UK. The Blue label, which wholesales in the UK, will be dropped.

Top-tier product prices will increase by about 10%, and the average wholesale shirt price will rise from £16 to £22.

UK sales make up 50% of the group's business, with US and other international sales accounting for 25% each. Total sales reached £120 million last year.

Department store group House of Fraser is among a raft of new accounts for spring, and is buying into the brand for the first time in two years.

Ben Sherman's womens-wear offer has already been repositioned for autumn 07. The category now targets the 25- to 40-year-old age group, rather than the 16- to 24-year-olds it was previously aimed at. Prices have increased by up to 30% across womenswear.

The overhaul is part of a new strategy devised by private equity backers Oxford Industries, which bought the brand in 2004.

Alongside the UK strategy, Ben Sherman will also kick off a global retail push, which includes opening up to 30 standalone stores in China in the next two years.

Other new sites include Berlin, Tokyo, Manila, Dubai, San Francisco and the Bullring in Birmingham during the next six to eight months, in a mix of company-owned and franchise stores.

The brand will open an Asian headquarters to support the expansion.

As part of the strategy, Ricardo Meyer, managing director for Germany, will become head of Ben Sherman Europe.

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