BHS stores set to close after rescue efforts prove fruitless

The BHS store in Ipswich.

The BHS store in Ipswich. - Credit: Gregg Brown

One of the most prominent stores in Ipswich town centre faces an uncertain future following a decision by the administrators of struggling retailer BHS to wind-down the business.

Around 11,000 jobs are likely to be lost across the country, with the administrators – who were called in at the end of April – having failed in efforts to secure a rescue deal.

In a statement yesterday, the administrators – from corporate advisory firm Duff and Phelps – said: “Despite the considerable efforts of the administrators and BHS senior management it has not been possible to agree a sale of the business.

“Although multiple offers were received, none were able to complete a deal due the working capital required to secure the future of the company.”

The administrators said that their thoughts were with BHS employees, adding: “We thank them for their professionalism and hard work. We would also like to thank the great British public for helping us in our efforts to save BHS resulting in several weeks of significant sales.”

An “orderly wind-down of the BHS business” would now begin, Duff and Phelps said, with all 163 stores going into “close-down sale mode”.

Although efforts would continue to sell the stores, it was likely that the jobs of around 8,000 BHS staff members and a further 3,000 non-BHS employees would go.

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Join administrator Philip Duffy addedd: “The British high street is changing and in these turbulent times for retailers, BHS has fallen as another victim of the seismic shifts we are seeing.

“The tireless work and goodwill of the existing management team and employees of BHS with the support of my team were not enough to change the fortunes of the company.”

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, the delivery company responsible for the town’s Business Improvement District project, said: “BHS is one of our High Street institutioins and it is terribly sad to see a company previously so successful shutting up shop.

“The main concern must be for the staff at the Ipswich store, and for what can be done to help them find new jobs.”

However, Mr Clement said that, unlike a number of stores elsewhere in the BHS estate, the Ipswich branch occupied a modern unit which could readily be sub-divided, and he was confident that a new occupier, or occupiers, would be found.

BHS, whose presence in East Anglia also includes stores in Lowestoft, Chelmsford, Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Cambridge, has traded from its current site in Ipswich since the construction of the store as part of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre development, which opened in 1992.

Previously, the site was occupied by a cinema, built in 1937 and known successively as the Ritz, the Regal and the ABC which closed in 1986, and before that by a pub, the Wagon & Horses.

Before 1992, BHS traded in Ipswich from the Art Deco-style store on the corner of Tower Street and Tavern Street, currently occupied by fashion retailer H&M, which was purpose-built for British Home Stores, as it was originally known, also in 1937.

Earlier this year, a food department was opened at the Ipswich BHS store under plans by the company to reintroduce food at most of its branches around country.

Last year, BHS was sold by retail tycoon Sir Philip Green to new owners who announced that they had reached agreement with food distributors Booker to open food stores in up to 140 of its then total of 171 stores over the next few years, including 60 in the next 12 months.

The new owners of BHS, a consortium called Retail Acquisitions, led by Dominic Chappell, said a £1.3bn debt mountain, including a pension fund deficit of £571m, had been a stumbling block in securing new funding ahead of the appointment of administrators.

Sir Philip, who sold BHS for a nominal £1, has also come in for criticism in relation to the pension fund deficit issue, which emerged during his ownership of the business.