Ben Sherman is hoping to mine its irreverent British heritage by opening everything from gastropubs to scooter-cafés with its unique aesthetic.
The brand, which traces its history to the U.K. in 1963, is partnering with Brands Lab International to create branded experiential properties around the world starting in the fall of next year. The two companies started talking before the pandemic as the brand was exploring opportunities to expand.
“Ben Sherman is non-conformist but inclusive and all about camaraderie and community,” said Talbot Logan, senior vice president of brand management for Ben Sherman. It is known for its ties to art, music and “the vibe of London,” he added.
Before collaborations became commonplace, Ben Sherman had partnered with Sharps on barber shops and it “worked really well,” Logan said.
By partnering with Brands Lab, a Miami-based real estate branding company that has worked with Badgley Mischka and Head, the hope is to create experiences that resonate with the Ben Sherman target demographic. That will include identifying several key cities such as Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg in Germany, Chicago and Dallas in the U.S., and others around the world where the experiences would perform best.
The plan, Logan said, is to explore expansion into everything from furnished apartments, boutique hotel lounges, scooter-cafés, student lounges and communal residences into product extensions like luggage and hotel amenities.
“Sustainability and responsibly sourced materials will play a pivotal role in project build and decor, as will the brand’s unmistakable signature DNA,” Logan explained. “The notion of turning traditional commercial enterprise on its head to create a broader sphere of environments for our audience feels like a natural progression. As a brand that has close ties with youth culture for decades — where they live, socialize, dine, watch a movie or a live gig — it is equally as significant as where they choose to shop. Our vision is to translate the shared rite of passage into socially distanced eclectic spaces where our audience can feel at home in any city around the world as we come out of the pandemic, whether it be a Ben Sherman pub or barbershop lounge. They’ll enjoy an aesthetic and ambience steeped in the brand’s heritage, with a modernized twist.”
The initial plan was to launch some of these concepts earlier than the fall of 2021, but in light of the pandemic, the company opted to push things back. “This is the perfect time to be very strategic,” Logan said.
The first property to open will likely be a pub, but a scooter-café and communal residences also hold appeal for the company, according to Logan.
None of the experiential formats would be part of Ben Sherman retail stores, rather stand-alone concepts expected to bring the brand to life in an organic way with targeted audiences.
“It’s not going to be the Ralph Lauren or Tommy Bahama model,” Logan said, “but going to where [our customers] are and helping them come to the brand organically.” Selling product, he added, would be “secondary.“
The format could hold new appeal for generating loyalty in a post-pandemic landscape.
“We foresee great projects in the near future with Ben Sherman, targeting the loyal audience that identifies with the young, vibrant British style the brand is known for,” said Florian Haffa, founder and chief executive officer of Brands Lab International. “Ben Sherman’s efforts in regard to sustainability and the clear DNA they can transmit into real estate projects make the brand a great addition.”
Ben Sherman, which is best known for its colorful shirts that resonated with the Mods in Britain in the Sixties, is now a full lifestyle brand. It has been owned by Marquee Brands since 2015.
Logan said the brand managed to come through COVID-19 “relatively strong,” thanks in large part to its standing with independent specialty stores in Europe. “Foot traffic has come back,” he said, adding that, fortunately, Ben Sherman doesn’t have a “massive over-dependence” on department stores.
In the U.S., the team used the lockdown time to “revamp” product and enhance relationships with licensees. “We’re pleased at what we’re starting to see in the U.S. market,” Logan said. “Spring orders are coming in, so we’re feeling more bullish.”
Looking ahead, Logan sees a bright future for Ben Sherman, particularly in light of the rescheduling of the Olympics to next summer. The brand has a multiyear agreement to dress Team GB, Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Olympic team, during the Opening Ceremony of the Games. It will also create a collection to be sold to the public.