London-based Ben Sherman Group Ltd. has named Pan Philippou chief executive officer, effective in January. Philippou, who was group chief executive of U.K.-based clothing group WDT, will succeed Miles Gray, who will retire that month as ceo. Gray will then take on the role of nonexecutive chairman at Ben Sherman, along with an advisory role at Oxford Industries, the Atlanta-based company that owns the British brand.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Ben Sherman is a brand inbuilt with heritage and authenticity, and it has the potential to grow much further,” Philippou, who earlier in his career served as managing director of Diesel U.K. and then ceo of Diesel USA, said during an interview at Ben Sherman’s new Savile Row store Tuesday. “I want to pick up on the journey. The brand is going in the right direction.”

Gray, who was also at the store Tuesday, said that after 12 years at the company, he’d made the decision to retire from the ceo role. “There’s no way you can do this job at half pace,” said Gray, who in 2000 led a management buyout of the Ben Sherman business, before the company was sold to Oxford Industries in 2004. “Pan is my choice [for ceo] exactly. He’s the right guy for the job.”

Ben Sherman, known for its Mod-influenced designs, recently underwent a restructuring due to declining sales in the recession. The company reduced headcount and discontinued its footwear and children’s lines earlier this year, taking a $1.4 million charge in the second quarter. “Business is tough, and we need to concentrate on our area of expertise,” said Gray.

However, those categories will relaunch next year via licensees. London-based Hudson shoes is now Ben Sherman’s licensing partner for shoes, while Flyers Group is the label’s new licensing partner for kids’ wear.

For the second quarter ended Aug. 1, Ben Sherman net sales declined 27.3 percent to $23.6 million. In the first half of the fiscal year, net sales fell 30.7 percent to $47.8 million.

The Ben Sherman division posted an operating loss of $6.3 million in the second quarter, compared with an operating loss of $2 million in the year ago quarter. For the first half, operating losses were $8.3 million, compared with a loss of $1.7 million in the first half of 2008.

Philippou plans to continue to open more stores, with an opening in London’s Covent Garden planned for later this month, while the label is looking for “street locations rather than mall locations” in the U.S. The label’s fifth retail location in the U.S., a store on Newbury Street in Boston, opened last month. Men’s wear is the bulk of the business, with women’s wear making up between 10 and 15 percent of Ben Sherman sales. Philippou acknowledged the opportunity to expand the women’s category but said he would veer away from “chasing the trends.”

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