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Customer focus vital as  Ben Sherman chief exits

Young fashion industry figures have said Ben Sherman’s next chief executive should be more consumer-focused, after Drapers this week broke news of Pan Philippou’s departure.

Philippou left the men’s young fashion brand this week after almost three years at the helm. While a replacement has yet to be announced, Tom Chubb, president of parent company Oxford Industries, will step in until a new chief executive is found.

A young fashion brand manager said Philippou’s successor must have strong consumer awareness. “You have to look inward and give the consumer what they want,” he said.

One young fashion industry insider added: “I think they need somebody who is much more consumer-focused. Pan is a good salesman, but they need someone who has clear understanding of the brand from a consumer perspective, especially in this market.”

During his time at Ben Sherman, Philippou led a reinvention of the brand, but one industry insider said: “My guess is [Ben Sherman] has tried to move too quickly to reposition in the UK and they haven’t taken the consumer with them, especially in the current climate, when consumers are looking for cheaper product and they were going in the opposite direction.”

One former employee said there may be difficulties in realigning Ben Sherman’s brand image. “The brand for me is a £40 checked shirt range, and so it’s difficult to move away from that.”

Philippou’s exit comes after UK sales director Laurence Morse departed in September. International licensing manager Mike Smith is also understood to have left recently, but Ben Sherman declined to comment. Philippou could not be reached for comment.

Readers' comments (5)

  • While Philipou's departure has been reported as a 'surprise', it was certainly not a much of surprise to anyone connected with Ben Sherman and in the wider trade. The new shops and spin could not hide the fact that the 'rebrand' was a failure [as expected] and as a result, the Spring '13 Collection had to revert to cheaper and more basic products. I don't remember that being reported?

    I think Oxford Industries have to hold their hands up and admit they made the wrong appointment. The successor needs to be someone who is prepared to work and accept Ben Sherman for what it is, rather than tailoring it to their own personal tastes which is what appears to have happened previously.

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  • I think listening to former employees is never a great idea, as there interest in the success of the brand may be somewhat tarnished.

    Ben Sherman is one of the oldest british brands in the marketplace and with genuine heritage, which other brands try and emulate.

    They have recently one awards for there new retail concept and Globally the brand is moving forwards very swiftly with very little resisitance, especially in America and Asia, the UK is a slower situation due to the hangover of the brands history in the 1990s but its clear for all to see that the brand is evolving, from their made in England Plectrum collection to their brand new in house tailoring collection which is looking one of the sharpest in the market.

    Typical press that as soon as someone leaves, we instantly go negative, lets be more positive.

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  • The above comment sounds suspiciously like a belated PR piece from someone closely connected with Ben Sherman, but all this comes across as is a statement of denial. Losing customers is not evolving the brand.

    Drapers hasn't been negative reporting the piece, in fact one could argue that it now shows the brand in a more positive light after Philippou's departure, as there is now an opportunity to turn the brand around in the U.K.

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  • Whomever takes over is going to benefit from Pan's hard work and vision repositioning the brand. How can people jump on this guy? It take more than only three years to turn around a brand. A massive amount of work has been achieved and it's a shame the new CEO will get all the credit now that everything has been set up for success.

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  • In any business, one thing you should never do is alienate your core customer. By all means do different things, but they are the bread & butter who pay the bills and earn you money. This was arguably lost under Pan's tenure.

    I would agree that Ben Sherman needed repositioning, but I don't think this was done in the right way and as a result, has barely been repositioned at all, other than the extremely limited distribution of Plectrum.

    In the industry obsession that is 'repositioning', there is a right way to do it and the wrong way to do it. The right way is you never tell anyone your doing it. That way you end up in a few years time with a higher profile brand and haven't alienated customers. A good job done.

    In Ben Sherman's case, they told everyone they were going upmarket, failed and got caught with their trousers down. Whether Pan was given enough time is open to question, but
    one would suspect that the figures were going too much in the wrong direction for Oxford Industries to see whether the repositioning would actually work in the financial sense. This in any business, is the bottom line.

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