BHS’s future looking bleak

The BHS store in central Leeds.
Picture by Simon Hulme

The BHS store in central Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

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STAFF at Leeds’s two BHS stores could lose their jobs following the collapse of retailer BHS, the biggest high street failure since Woolworths went bust eight years ago.

Workers at the retail chain’s 164 stores, including those at Trinity Leeds and the White Rose Shopping Centre, were told yesterday that negotiations to find a buyer for the struggling retailer had been unsuccessful.

Both shops were open as usual yesterday, as administrators were appointed in an attempt to sell the debt-ridden chain as a going concern. However, it is more likely to be sold off piecemeal as rival retailers look to take on prime locations.

BHS was bought last year by a consortium called Retail Acquisitions for £1 from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, the owner of the Arcadia retail empire. It has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million, which proved a major stumbling block in last-ditch rescue talks over the weekend.

Rival retailer Sports Direct is understood to want to some of the BHS’s stores, but will only do so if it does not have to take on any pension liabilities.

Up to 30 other retailers may look to buy either a slimmed-down version of the business out of administration or pick over its store estate.

Leeds Chamber of Commerce president Gerald Jennings said: “It is always disappointing to hear news of major redundancies, especially at such a well-known brand as BHS. However, the retail sector is dynamic and as many of the stores occupy prime retail locations, especially in Leeds, I expect there will be interest in many of the store locations as going concerns.”

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