BHS avoids collapse but what does the future hold?


BHS – markdowns highlight the problems the business has

So BHS has won approval for its rescue plan that will allow it to make a huge cut in its rent bill. My mum will be pleased. But that’s BHS’s problem really. My mum’s 89 and I doubt there are that many 29-year-old shouting yippee at the moment.

Not that there’s anything wrong with targeting an older market. But when BHS does, it gets it wrong too often. Too many sleeveless dresses and when sleeves are there, they’re monkey-length (according to my mum). That won’t appeal to a customer who wants to keep her arms covered up and who’s not very tall.

Its styling isn’t striking a chord with Millennials either and partly that’s an image problem. Which is a shame, as there’s good product at keen prices in the offer. That’s especially so for the interiors line. But again, here the target customer is going to Ikea, Zara Home, Anthropologie, Argos. Not BHS.

So now that’s won approval for its rent plan, is it out of the woods? Not at all. Philip Green spent a long time trying to turn it around before selling the lossmaking business to Retail Acquisitions for £1 a year ago.

Those product and image issues remain in place and further problems for BHS come with its pension fund black hole. The company has six months to sort that out or it could face collapse again.

Plus there’s a general air of negativity aroung the business. The company has had plenty of negative press including some suppliers speaking out against a plan to cut the letters of credit it issues. And the Guardian reported this month that of an £8.4m loan owner Retail Acquisitions took out of BHS days after buying it, more than a third went to four directors for “professional fees”. That’s not the kind of news creditors want to hear.

We just have to hope BHS can turn itself around as there are roughly 10,000 jobs at stake.

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