In-depth: Ben Sherman’s Carnaby Street flagship shop re-design shows the brand’s way forward

Ben Sherman

The Ben Sherman 1,000 sq ft flagship shop at 50 Carnaby Street re-opened its doors at the weekend, revealing a re-design and fresh retail concept that signals the way forward for the brand which will now be rolled out in Europe.

The aim is to provide a greater retail experience for customers. Eurostop technology incorporated into the till-point plays branded content which enhances the customer’s checkout experience. The innovative customer experience will initially soon be rolled out to Ben Sherman retail locations in Germany, with other locations to follow.

Whilst the store exterior still features the iconic “Brown Betty” tiles, inside customers are drawn to a modern white tiled wall featuring a bold neon sign with the original Ben Sherman signature logo. “The Shirt Bar” is more prominently at the heart of the store to really nail the message of Ben Sherman’s origins and speciality as “the king of shirts.”

Talbot Logan, SVP of brand management at Ben Sherman owner Marquee Brands in New York, overseeing the global Ben Sherman brand, comments: “Refitting our flagship store represents a new chapter for the brand following the announcement of our partnership with TEAM GB alongside our retail growth across Europe. The UK continues to be one of our strongest markets and it is only fitting that we enhance our flagship in the capital.

“With this new store concept, we wanted to offer our customers a fully immersive retail experience that not only nods to our heritage but also pushes the brand forward. It was an opportunity to bring the store experience up a level. It’s a much more curated and edited format with clear branding. There’s also point of sale screens at each of the payment registers that play the brand’s video to constantly reinforce the message. It’s a way of bringing that communication and engagement with the consumer which just wasn’t there in the old store. Technology has moved on.”

Kevin Stone, group sales and marketing director at Baird Group, which operates Ben Sherman ecommerce and retail locations in the UK, Holland and Germany, says: “It’s a pleasure for the team at Baird Group to deliver a new flagship concept at 50 Carnaby Street, the iconic street has been the spiritual home of the brand since the sixties.

“We will continue to drive the brand forward with new partnerships with retailers like Zalando, Next, and The Very Group and the relaunch of bensherman.de, the brand’s German website. It’s a truly exciting time for the Ben Sherman brand and in support of the planned European expansion, the brand will exhibit at Pitti Uomo 96 in Florence and at Seek in Berlin, along with regional tradeshows within the UK.”

Stone also says that from 2020 it is also going back to using the one iconic Ben Sherman signature logo – in navy blue on a white background – right across the brand, dropping the other block black and white logo.

Ben Sherman

“The Carnaby Street shop refurbishment gave us an opportunity to get that in to the marketplace now,” he says. “Also, while the previously shop-fit did look good, the high street has moved on and we didn’t want to get left behind. The new look has a much more contemporary feel. It was an opportunity to absolutely nail it to Ben Sherman’s DNA but move it forward as well. As our stores come up for an upgrade, we will now follow this new format. It will also be the same for shop-in-shops with our key partners.”

Now in its 56th year, having been founded in Brighton in 1963 by Ben Sherman (born Arthur Benjamin Sugarman), who returned from the US with pattern books to make his very own button-down shirts, it seems the brand is seeing something of a resurgence and, aside from Germany, Spain and Italy are specifically now being targeted for future growth.

“We’ve just signed new distribution partnership deals in both Spain and Italy,” offers Logan. “When we returned to show at Pitti in January 2019, the amount of positive reaction we got from Italian retailers in particular reinforced the fact that Ben Sherman will be a great success there.”

Logan says that the Spanish territory distribution deal also takes in Portugal, so it is getting three more key European countries on board to build on the success it has had elsewhere in Europe, such as in France, Germany, Scandinavia and Belgium. “We’ve had very strong continued growth in those areas. And we are also continuing to look at other regions such as India and Asia. We have actually just opened new stores in the Philippines and Latin America.”

Although the brand has British heritage, usually something much loved across the pond, and was also acquired by American company Marquee Brands in the summer of 2015, it’s perhaps at odds that the US is not currently the biggest market for Ben Sherman. “Actually, our bigger markets are the UK, Australia and Canada,” comments Logan. “But we are now very much focused on growing the US distribution. It’s a great opportunity for us to expand the brand and we’ve invested very heavily in our ecommerce site. A lot of the work we’re doing is driving consumers to our own website on the domestic side.

“All of our digital advertising and social media is really driven towards, not only the engagement with its consumers, but also driving commerce through ecommerce. The US is very much of a developmental market for us. We have a nice strong business there, but there’s definitely an opportunity to grow that so we’ve got the same kind of penetration in the US market as we’ve seen in some of our other global markets.”

Ben Sherman

In terms of the UK market, Stone believes it has also now started to regain some good market penetration through independents such Stuarts London and The Projekt Store in Sutton. It’s also hoped that the signing to kit out Team GB for the 2020 Olympics will bring Ben Sherman to a new and younger audience. “We hope that will help us to open up a new market for the brand. We’ve got a legacy customer, but what we also need to have is the Generation Z and the Millennials customer. We’re hoping with the Olympic tie up to move in to some new sectors and new distribution.”

In terms of advertising strategy, the Underground will continue to feature Ben Sherman ads – particularly at Oxford Circus, the closest station to the Carnaby Street flagship, but Stone says it has also gone more regional with flyposting campaigns in areas such as Norwich, Bristol and Sheffield. “The interesting thing is, we’ve picked up new accounts off the back of that,” he offers. “But we’ve also picked up direct sales on our website from those areas.”

As that advertising angle has been seen to work, a second iteration of more local flyposting is being put in to place for this autumn, based around the brand’s staples and core essential collection. “We’ve also been using micro influencers within our campaigns,” says Stone.

The return to show at Pitti on 11-14 June, will see Ben Sherman take a more central standalone spot at the show, where once again the new branding will be firmly in evidence. Key seasonal looks will be shown alongside the capsule “Archive” collection, which was very much the focus of the presentation in January. This time round there will also be a bar on the stand for thirsty buyers and journalists. It seems the brand is going all out to ensure a successful future, Brexit or not.