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Exclusive: Licensing deal spells 'positive outlook', says Ben Sherman

BSGL 1963, the UK licence holder for Ben Sherman, has been acquired by menswear supplier BMB Clothing as part of a pre-pack administration.

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman’s owner, US firm Marquee Brands, began exploring the possibility of a licensing deal with Leeds-based BMB in December, as first reported by Drapers. The partnership was formally signed on January 29.

As part of the deal, BMB will retain between 35 and 40 members of Ben Sherman’s head office staff. Around 85 roles are still under consultation.

The head office staff are currently based at Ben Sherman’s headquarters in Clerkenwell, London, and offices in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. The lease for the London premises has now been put up for sale.

Three of Ben Sherman’s 10 UK stores - in Islington, Portobello and Covent Garden, all in London - will close in the coming months, resulting in the loss of between 18 and 20 jobs, including part-time staff. The remaining seven UK and 10 European stores will remain open, saving around 180 roles.

The ecommerce and wholesale arms of the business will be transferred to BMB, along with Ben Sherman’s concessions, which are exclusively in House of Fraser.

Ben Sherman said creditors are still being worked through following the deal but are “limited.”

A statement said: “The future of the Ben Sherman brand in the UK and greater Europe has been ensured with the announcement of a strategic partnership between Marquee Brands and BMB Clothing.

“The iconic British fashion label was acquired in July by New York-based Marquee Brands and has since undergone a period of business review and ultimately a period of employee consultation which remains ongoing. This approach has resulted in a pre-pack administration deal of BSGL 1963, the initial UK and European licensee.

“This change which will keep the majority of UK stores open, with just three closures planned in the coming months.

“This exciting new relationship has also fundamentally enhanced the position of the company. The entire UK business including the e-commerce and wholesale sectors have been reviewed and a new model was devised where all customers will be seamlessly transferred to the new licensee.

“Additionally, BMB will take 35-40 staff from the UK head office to ensure optimal continuity of the business.”

Ben Sherman’s interim chief executive Simon Smith, who was originally brought in as chief restructuring officer in July 2015, is expected to leave the business following the review and transfer to the new owner. A date has not been confirmed.

The deal with BMB covers Ben Sherman in the UK but the business will also support distributors in European markets, excluding Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. A separate deal for this division, which will be managed by a Germany-based licensee, is expected shortly.

BSGL 1963 Limited, which trades as Ben Sherman, put all of its jobs and retail network under review on December 18 after beginning work on the licensing partnership with BMB. Marquee Brands continued to invest in the brand in the meantime.

Operational restructuring and financial support from Gordon Brothers Europe allowed the deal to be completed “without disruptions to the supply chain, channels and customers”, the company said.

For the year to January 31, sales at Ben Sherman were up 26.6% to £49m. However, it made a full-year loss of £7.3m, down from £8.8m the year before.

BMB Clothing is part of the Baird Group, a design, manufacturing and wholesale business whose retail portfolio also includes Racing Green and Jasper Conran. Its brands are distributed through concessions in department stores like Debenhams and House of Fraser and via independent retailers. The Baird Group is owned by Egyptian clothing company Arafa Holding. 

BMB has held the licence for Ben Sherman’s formalwear range since June 2009 and its core fashion range since the announcement in December. Flyers Group has retained the licence for its kidswear and 33 Joints for its footwear.

Ben Sherman has employed fashion and retail recruitment consultancy HGA Group to offer support and advice to staff who are looking for new jobs.  

Readers' comments (4)

  • I queried the purchase of Ben Sherman in July '15 for £41m by Marquee as representing a bizarre valuation and suggested that Drapers dig a little deeper into the deal. Who advised Marquee? Are they still in business?

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  • This story is about as clear as mud. Has all of Ben Sherman been pre-packed? Just the UK business? More likely, I suspect, otherwise what does the American company think about blowing £41m? Is Simon Smith leaving because his job is done? Is there a new license? Were there any creditors? What is happening with the wholesale business - it was quite substantial? Does this ultimately protect the BS Debenham's business? Who owns BMB these days?

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  • Luke Todd

    Thanks for your comments. The story has been updated to include new information and will continue to be as more details emerge.

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  • Comment 1

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