Gordon Brothers is the new owner of British streetwear brand Bench Ltd.
The brand filed for administration — the U.S. equivalent of a bankruptcy filing — last April. Gordon Brothers acquired Bench’s intellectual property assets in a transaction that closed on Friday. The brand was owned by German private equity firm Emeram Capital, which acquired Bench in February 2014 from Americana International.
The brand is the latest to be hit by the slowdown in high-street fashion retail in the U.K.
Bench, launched in Manchester, England, in 1989, was one of the first streetwear fashion retailers, focusing initially on lifestyle products connected with the skate and BMX culture of the late Eighties and early Nineties. The brand expanded to include men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel. As of 2017, there were more than 80 Bench-branded stores across 20 countries in Europe and North America, as well as more than 2,000 wholesale points of distribution.
Toubassy said the European stores are in the process of closing. The stores in Canada, which he said are profitable, will continue with Bench’s partnership with Freemark Apparel Brands Group. Freemark also handles the manufacturing of product for the Canadian operation. For all other territories, Toubassy is in discussions with potential licensing partners to handle — initially — the wholesale component, with retail expansion to follow after the wholesale and e-commerce components of the business are reestablished.
“The number-one priority for the brand is to reorient the mind-set to be more digitally native and to [better] engage with the consumer online,” he said.
He is planning on a more aggressive expansion into the U.S. market, where the brand has a “small wholesale business.”
Toubassy is aiming for a more inclusive expansion into the streetwear lifestyle category, one that he said is “incredibly hot” due to the much-talked-about brand Supreme.
“Unlike Supreme, which is solely men’s, Bench has products for men’s, women’s and kids. What Bench didn’t have, compared with Supreme, was phenomenal marketing nor a real finger on the pulse with the younger consumers,” he said.
Toubassy plans to change that, noting that the streetwear market has “staying power.” He also said that although “Supreme has a tribe of consumers that are really rabid Supreme followers, the [streetwear] lifestyle is much broader than just Supreme. Supreme has done an amazing job and its price points are more premium than Bench. We want to bring that culture to a broader demographic.”
Average price points for a Bench hoodie is between $65 and $85, while a T-shirt ranges between $20 and $30. “It’s not cheap, but far more accessible,” Toubassy said.
Gordon Brothers has experience relaunching brands. It has done so with Polaroid, Wet Seal and Bombay & Co.
Toubassy’s division will use learnings from its Wet Seal relaunch to re-brand Bench. It is already looking at marketing campaigns using influencers for later this year.