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New Bench boss Sälzer aims to reconnect with youth market

Escada boss Bruno Sälzer has been appointed as chief executive of Bench and will lead a repositioning of its UK business to regain popularity with younger shoppers.

Sälzer, who has been chief executive of German womenswear brand Escada since 2008, will join Bench before December.

He has also taken a 15% stake in the young fashion brand’s parent company Emeram Urbanics. Emeram Capital Partners bought Bench from private equity firm HgCapital in February for an undisclosed sum.

Drapers has learned that part of Sälzer’s brief will be to rethink the UK business, which head of retail Andy Marsh said has “lost its way over the past four or five years”.

Over the past two years Bench closed all 12 of its full-price stores in the UK, leaving 17 outlet stores selling off-priced stock. Bench has 200 stockists in the UK and Marsh declined to comment on its target for expansion.

A new store could open before spring 2015, but Marsh said the first priority was to address the problems in Bench’s UK wholesale and distribution operations. As part of this, Bench will increase its wholesale mark-up from 2.5 to 2.7.

The company is hoping to “re-engage with its customers” and will focus more of its wholesale business on full-price sales.

Marsh added: “Historically we’ve been something of a ‘jack of all trades’ in the UK. We need to redress the balance.”

Bench has just unveiled its spring 15 range, which centres around ‘multi-purpose clothing’ with “new silhouettes, new products and new fabrics”, said Marsh, to appeal to the youth streetwear market.

The brand, which was founded in Manchester in 1989, now sells throughout continental Europe via both its own stores and stockists in more than 30 countries.

London-based retail interiors agency Brinkworth has been appointed to design a revamped store concept, which will be unveiled at a new opening in Berlin this summer. It will be applied to all future store openings and will eventually be retro-fitted in existing shops.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Bench hasn't lost its way in the UK it just hasn't changed. The UK young customer has changed and involved into something new and Bench looks the same as it did five years ago.

    This sounds similar to Ben Sherman before they underwent their brand re-position. Hopefully they can follow it through to the end, and hold their nerve.

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  • Leslie Docherty

    Bench was overtaken by superdry, which has evolved to stay current, albeit not as popular.
    Whereas Bench still looks the same as 15 years ago, i can't believe it's still going.

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  • Bench is still synonymous with the Chav era for the early/mid 2000's and that is not place the modern consumer wants to go back to. The world has moved on while Bench hasn't.

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