The unique fashion, youth culture and bubble tea concept, Benkei Hime, which launched its first location in Toronto about a year ago, has aggressive plans to build the brand to other markets in the country.
The brand has about 30 stores in Asia with two in Canada – at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre and CF Markville Mall in Markham, Ontario.
Aurora describes Benkei Hime as a fashion label founded in Seoul, Shanghai and Toronto. “The first of its kind that pushes the boundaries between tea, fashion and youth culture. The BH brand includes Bubble tea, youth culture, streetwear apparel, accessories and sports equipment.”
Berkowitz said stores can be anywhere from 800 to 1,400 square feet. Ideally, the brand is looking for a high traffic location that is in the vicinity of other tenants with a similar customer base.
“They’re looking primarily in major enclosed shopping centres,” he said. “Definitely I would say that they are appealing to a younger shopper in their teens to late 20s. It’s a primary customer.
“It is really a mix of an urban lifestyle brand. It includes a beverage counter with various teas and bubble teas but also has all kinds of branded items from hoodies to key chains to surf boards.
“The primary immediate need would be to add about another four locations in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and from there we are looking Canada wide and also have interest in the United States for future growth as well.”
Berkowitz said the brand would like to see another four to five locations open this year and then to continue to roll out across Canada at least another five to 10 for next year.
“I think what’s really interesting from a landlord perspective is that they put a tremendous effort into the store design. Each store has a consistent theme but it is customized for the mall and the market that it’s in. The whole way that they see the store is an extension of the brand and so they try to make the experience of visiting the store something worthwhile that will help drive the traffic so that they’re more than just the product they sell. It’s the experience a customer walks into.”
Jason Wang, Owner of Benkei Hime, said the key is providing a place where customers can have a one-of-a-kind experience.
With a lot of the restructuring that is taking place in the retail landscape these days, Benkei Hime sees some great real estate opportunities to expand in the market at decent prices.
“I think our model works in Canada and we want to look for more opportunities,” said Wang.
“It’s about lifestyle. It’s really a lifestyle brand and not just a traditional beverage place. And it’s focusing on a young demographic. In the summer we’ll have about 40 to 50 per cent of revenue coming from retail – from streetwear and merchandise. We use beverages to get their attention and when they come to the store they see all these (items) – things that young people use in their daily lives – that makes us a unique place in the mall.”
In a previous Retail Insider story, Wang said: “We consider ourselves as a fashion label, not really a bubble tea store. The idea is to push the boundary between art as well as beverage. The beverage is more tea, but some coffee, fashion and youth culture. It’s a brand for young people.”
In Asia, the brand is known for trendy clothes, Instagram-worthy beverage pictures and it’s a platform for young people to enjoy life and to express themselves.