In August, Menswear brand Ben Sherman announced a new global brand venture into Ben Sherman-branded gastropubs, barbershops, boutique hotel lounges and, potentially, apartments. This move into the world of Leisure & Property is in collaboration with Brands Lab International and is due to roll out from Autumn 2021.
In the latest instalment of our Transformational Leaders series, Kathryn Gill, Consultant in our Retail Leisure Practice, spoke with Talbot Logan about this interesting and bold brand strategy. Talbot is SVP of Brand Management for Marquee Brands, the parent company of Ben Sherman. He oversees the global Ben Sherman brand and with his team has overall responsibility for product development, retail distribution, e-commerce development and execution. He also works closely with the brand’s licensing partners which includes the Baird Group who are the master licensee within the UK and Ireland for formalwear, casualwear and retail of Ben Sherman.
How long has this strategy been in the pipeline and why are you choosing now?
We first identified the white-space opportunity late last year and after meeting with Brand Labs International (BLI) and decided that they would be a great partner in this endeavour given their global reach and experience in bringing these ideas to fruition for other global mega-brands.
Obviously, COVID-19 has slowed down our development timing but we have relaunched our exploratory phase and are actively looking at locations and opportunities.
Whilst Ben Sherman is a British heritage brand, it has global reach and I understand the new venture will span across multiple Global cities. Which cities are you targeting and why? And how ‘localised’ will the concept be to each individual city?
Ben Sherman has always been about community and camaraderie, so we are looking into cities where our consumers are, as this opportunity is about bringing a different level of brand interaction to where our consumers live, work and enjoy their free time. Cities like London, New York, Berlin, Sydney are some of the major metropolises we are working on, in addition to markets like Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Cologne, Leeds and the brand’s birthplace of Brighton. However, since we just expanded into Italy and Spain and will be launching into India and South Korea in the next two months, we are also looking at opportunities in those countries.
Each concept is intended to be localised to that market. Even if the fundamental concept is the same, the execution will be tailored to best fit in with that local consumer.
What do you believe the biggest challenge will be in making Ben Sherman synonymous with leisure activities? As SVP of the brand, how are you managing the risk of such?
Right now, the biggest risk is the uncertainty around COVID and not being sure when we will be able to resume leisure activities at anything close to normal levels. This is further complicated by different rules and regulations in each country and city. But now also represents the best time to be looking at non-traditional retail real estate. So, we are going to balance securing the right opportunity with the best information we can secure around COVID and go from there.
And what do you believe the most exciting part to be, of what’s to come?!
For me, I think the most exciting thing is that when we get on the other side, we will have emerged with a sense of community and appreciation for the local shops and suppliers in our neighbourhoods. This could lead to a fantastic resurgence of the independent retailers who can provide a personal level of product presentation and services. Ben Sherman has always been about community and we should be able to fit directly into this trend.
I also think we will see an appreciation for creativity and quality rather than just a desire for ubiquitous quantity.
Whilst the new venture is targeting the core Ben Sherman customer, it will require an increased breadth of thinking and knowledge from the team. As a leader, how will you ensure that this happens?
Ben Sherman’s strength has always been the commitment of a large global team to the success of the Brand. We know that great ideas come when people are inspired and encouraged to ideate and dream. My role is to make sure that that happens. I believe in collaboration and supported autonomy—that seems to be the magic formula that has worked for me in the past. It’s not my job to be the sole voice of the Ben Sherman brand, but to make sure that all the team’s voices are heard and used to best move the brand forward.
As it relates to this specific new venture, we will approach it in a similar way we approach establishing all our - product and distribution partnerships. We will look for functional expertise in this area, combine that with a strong respect for and understanding of the brand’s DNA.
And finally, as a Marketer, how do you believe COVID will alter how consumers interact with brands, generally?
I think we have learned that engagement with our consumer is an important part of the relationship with that consumer. If all we do is push product, then we are missing an opportunity to become part of their daily life and integrated into their personal community. I think the Ben Sherman team did an excellent job of balancing the two over the last six months, and I think that approach will only deepen and give consumers an attachment to brands that goes beyond product. That’s why this venture in experiential retail will, in my mind, represent the next iteration of direct to consumer marketing and selling. By coming to our consumers where they live, work and play (versus always forcing them to come to our location), we will just become a more natural part of our consumers’ lives.