Page 4: Place
This refers both to the places where Ben Sherman products may be bought and to the channels of distribution used to deliver the products to these places.
Place is not always a physical building such as a retail outlet or shop, but includes any means by which the product is made available to the customer. A business has to balance getting enough of its products to its target customers against the problems or costs of distributing them.
For a premium or luxury brand, making the products too easily available might reduce the perceived value of the brand. This illustrates the need to select carefully how the marketing mix is put together to match the product to the needs of the target market.
Ben Sherman limits where its products are sold and keeps a tight rein on how they are sold and its distribution channels. This creates a unique Ben Sherman experience wherever customers buy its products.
Ben Sherman uses three traditional distribution channels. Each has distinct characteristics and different strengths and weaknesses:
- its own stores - where the brand is strongest, but requires investment in property, stock and sales people
- independent fashion stores - whilst offering a unique or more specialised sales channel these outlets carry limited amounts of stock. Also, the costs of processing, e.g. for delivery and administration, are relatively higher for smaller orders.
- department stores - will buy centrally but may want discounts if they order in bulk, reducing Ben Sherman's profitability
Ben Sherman works in close partnership with department stores, creating 'shop-in-shops' a unique concept where the customer feels that they are in a Ben Sherman store.
The store shares its marketing information about what types of customers are purchasing and which products are most in demand. This enables Ben Sherman and the department store to provide the relevant stock to maximise revenue.
Ben Sherman also has its own stores around the world and opens new ones each year. It has a long-term commitment to expanding globally. Although the stores represent a big investment, they are important to the company in controlling its own sales environment and increasing profit. The interiors of its flagship stores reflect British style and identity through use of antique furniture, music memorabilia, photographs and the Union Jack flag.
For a limited time in 2007, each store worldwide displayed a specially designed Gibson guitar in a dedicated window space decorated with and inspired by the Ben Sherman product, brand and music influences. Gibson is the world's leading guitar specialist and created for Ben Sherman a set of 20 collectable limited edition guitars. Each unique guitar was then sold at auction online to raise money for charity.
Ben Sherman used the guitar auction online to link the physical worldwide stores to the Internet. The company transmitted news of the auctions and bids via the Internet and gained online, national and regional press.
Ben Sherman also uses newer channels of distribution. It relaunched its website www.bensherman.com in February 2007 to provide a more interactive experience for customers to encourage them to spend more time on the site and shop:
- The site provides an online ordering service.
- It offers news updates for customers on the latest Ben Sherman products.
- The website helps to create an online 'community' of people who like Ben Sherman products.
- It gives relevant context for Ben Sherman products by providing video and music links, for example, the top 10 records of the 1970s.
This helps to build the brand philosophy and values. The company sees its online services as particularly important in reaching customers now and in the future.