BENCH: Where Style Meets Active Lifestyle for An Unforgettable Shopping Experience

The company won Apparel Retailer of the Year - Philippines and Store Design of the Year (Large) - Philippines at the Retail Asia Awards 2023.

The COVID-19 pandemic had significantly altered people’s lifestyles and it’s no secret that the pandemic had taken a toll on various sectors of the country as well, including the retail industry. Retailers had to quickly adapt and innovate, especially with the financial challenges that came at the time and the rapid rise of e-commerce.

Despite store closures, strict health protocols, and decreased consumer spending, Bench was amongst the companies that braved the challenges brought about by the health crisis. The brand consistently had explosive campaigns, successful events, key collaborations, innovative products, and well-celebrated celebrity endorsements amidst the pandemic.

It not only adapted by churning out new ways to excite consumers through creative products relevant to the situation, but also thrived and remained a household name amongst Filipinos.

In light of Bench’s success, the Philippine conglomerate Suyen Corporation which owns and operates the brand was given the awards Apparel Retailer of the Year - Philippines and for Bench Active, Store Design of the Year (Large) - Philippines at the Retail Asia Awards 2023.

The Retail Asia Awards is an initiative by Retail Asia Magazine to gather the region's best retail companies and honour their outstanding retail projects with a prestigious accolade.

Climbing to the top

Bench has come a long way from its roots as a men’s t-shirt store in Makati, Philippines. It became known in most households—thanks to its award-winning “Skuller” campaign—and has since developed women’s apparel, underwear, towels, bags, and other accessories.

The brand then remained to be the leading lifestyle brand in the Philippines for the past 35 years. It can cater to any Filipino consumer with over 1,000 products, along with various campaigns, collections, and products created with two key elements: relevance and excitement. Bench pushed forward despite the setbacks caused by foreign competition, the financial crisis, currency devaluation, and the pandemic in the past years.

Bench featured up-and-coming celebrity endorsers using trail-blazing advertising strategies and events. It then developed various personal care products like colognes, perfumes, and hair care products, as well as pet care essentials, in 2021 through the Fur Baby line. Now a household favourite, it has developed urban style performance wear that rivals international brands through Bench Active.

Bench Active, a brand extension of Bench, saw the need in the market for stylish, high-quality, and affordable fitness wear.

Bench Active provided the market with a wide range of activewear for both men and women, including athleisure and performance wear. Its specialised products fit the active lifestyle that has been designed for gym, yoga, running, and other sports activities whilst providing the needed support and comfort. 

The combination of style and performance sets Bench Active apart from all other sportswear brands. Whilst other brands use regular spandex material in their sportswear, Bench Active innovates with different materials that use the latest technology to provide more comfort, support, and breathability.

Bench Active's commitment to accessibility and strategic expansion has led to the opening of five standalone stores, ranging from 55 to 227 sqm, in key and high-traffic malls in Metro Manila and one in Clark, Pampanga. Additionally, selected high-traffic Bench stores in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao have been assigned key Bench Active areas to display the merchandise. The success of their expansion efforts is evident in the Bench Active Megamall store, which was the reason Suyen Corporation was recognised for Store Design of the Year (Large) - Philippines.

Located in the heart of SM Megamall, one of the largest shopping malls in the Philippines, the store boasts a stunning 12.7-metre wide storefront featuring an alluring LED display that entices customers to step into the Bench Active portal and become active participants in an exhibit of lights and motion. The store's design features inspirational messages displayed throughout the space, emphasising wellness and an active lifestyle.

The store's sales in 2022 exceeded its 2019 sales by 113%, indicating the store's successful implementation of effective marketing and merchandising strategies tailored to its target market.

Success in the target market

The key to Bench’s success is anchored on two things: adaptability and collaboration. Adaptability, in particular, had been at the core of Bench during the pandemic.

At the time, Bench ramped up the production of its sanitising essentials such as its hand and liquid sanitisers, disinfectant spray, wipes, gadget wipes, and kitchen spray, amongst others. The pandemic likewise highlighted the need for essential clothing, which paved the way for the Bench Everyday collection. In keeping true to the brand's essence to create excitement, Bench collaborated with two of the most in-demand KPop groups today, Stray Kids and ITZY, to accentuate the collection. Their endorsement launches reached the top trending conversations on Twitter and eventually converted to in-store and online sales.

The pandemic also had people swooning over Korean dramas, thanks to the whole new world of entertainment that was opened up by streaming. With this, Bench rode the wave of Korean dramas and tapped sought-after actors like Hyun Bin, Kim Soo Hyun, Wi Ha Jun, Ji Chang Wook, Kim Seon Ho, and Ahn Yeo Seop as their international endorsers.

Meanwhile, in terms of collaboration, Bench collaborated with famous brand characters such as Line & Friends, Hello Kitty, Peanuts, Money Heist, and Yu-Gi-Oh! for its merchandising mix. On top of this, the brand partnered with big names in Filipino culture like the fast food chain Jollibee, renowned Filipino fashion designer Lesley Mobo, and agricultural enterprise Urban Farmers.

Amidst these campaigns, Bench continues to uphold its social responsibility by developing eco-friendly, sustainable apparel. It developed the BETTERMADE line to raise environmental awareness and concern, where clothes were recycled from PET bottles.

The brand also collaborated with the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the TernoCon to promote the Philippine national dress, the terno, amongst the younger generation. The event featured up-and-coming local designers and championed the beauty of Filipino culture and heritage. In line with this, Bench launched affordable ternos, barongs, and other traditional outfits sold in select stores.

All these strategies paid off and created demand. It helped boost the company’s sales and generated profits. Bench remains top of mind for the market in creating meaningful products, events, and promotions for our customers, along with the apparent online and offline traffic.

The world may have witnessed substantial changes in the past 35 years, especially in terms of fashion and technology, but Bench was able to adapt to these changes and evolve with the times.

The Retail Asia Awards is presented by Retail Asia Magazine. To view the full list of winners, click here. If you want to join the 2024 awards programme and be acclaimed for your company's exceptional products or initiatives in the retail industry, please contact Jane Patiag at [email protected].

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