New BHS owner exploring options

The new owners of store chain BHS are “exploring options” including closures for the future of around a third of its 171 sites.

Sir Phillip Green reportedly sold BHS for as little as £1.
Sir Phillip Green reportedly sold BHS for as little as £1.

It comes less than a week after retail tycoon Sir Philip Green announced the sale of the loss-making business to a consortium of little-known investors called Retail Acquisitions for a nominal sum reported to be as little as £1.

BHS stressed that options for the future of the stores may include sub-letting under-used space or renegotiating payment terms as well as the possibility of closure.

It issued a statement seeking to downplay a report in Property Week that said leases on 52 sites, including one in London’s Oxford Street, were being primed for sale netting around £30m for Retail Acquisitions.

A spokesman said: “As with any new owner, Retail Acquisitions, together with BHS management, is looking at options for the property portfolio and its structure.

“Property consultants have been appointed, but this does not mean that any leases that may be under review will be sold, and certainly does not mean that store closure is the only option.

“Options could also include sub-letting under-utilised space or renegotiating payment terms. In addition, BHS management is exploring opening new stores in the right locations.

“BHS management has been clear, prior to the sale of the business, that certain loss-making stores might be sold at the right price, and in keeping with this the stores in Canterbury, Cardiff, Aylesbury, Bath and Thanet have been closed over the last 18 months.

“Prior to Retail Acquisitions’ purchase of BHS, the decision had been made to close the Oxford and Foss Park stores - which will happen in the coming months.”

Sir Philip sold BHS last week after buying it for £200m in May 2000. It employs 11,000 staff.

He said last week that he was confident Retail Acquisitions “have a platform to grow the business and return it to profitability”.

The consortium of buyers is led by chairman Keith Smith, a stockbroker formerly of City firm Nabarro Wells, and includes entrepreneur and former racing driver Dominic Chappell, as well as Spanish turnaround and oil distribution firm Olivia Petroleum.

Last week Mr Smith said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into this iconic British high street brand. We are convinced that with strategic and focused support we will return BHS to profitability, and safeguard the workforce.”

Latest financial results showed BHS slipped to a £21m loss for the year to August 30 from £19.3m the year before, despite a 3.6 per cent rise in underlying sales, as margins slipped by one per cent.

The first British Home Stores opened its doors in Brixton in 1928. Today, apart from its UK stores, it has 88 international franchise sites operating in markets such as Malaysia, Russia and the UAE.