Mixed picture for BHS stores one year

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Mixed picture for BHS stores one year

Mixed picture for BHS stores Annually Following closure

28 August 2017

From the section Business

An empty BHS store in LondonImage copyright
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BHS Dropped a year ago with the loss of 11,000 jobs

More than half of the 160 BHS stores that closed after the merchant fell into administration a year ago are still sitting empty, according to new research. BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson visits one former site in south London.

This time last year Mandy Pickering and the other BHS employees in Bexleyheath, were selling every last fixture and fitting they could off.

BHS was in its last hours, with almost 90 years of trading going to come to an end.

Though, she is back on the shop floor that is exact same, but the space was transformed. Another department store chain, Morleys has moved in.

“It’s the best thing that could have happened to this place,” says Mandy.

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Sandy (left) and Mandy are pleased to be working for the new company

She is one of around half a dozen former BHS employees that are working at this shop in London for Morleys.

After 18 years at BHS, Sandy Glavin has joined Mandy in working for Morleys.

“It’s like moving from a house, using it refurbished, and moving back in,” says Sandy.

“We’re very lucky. Morleys clearly saw the potential and made it so, so better – and everybody in the region thinks so also.”

It was a excellent outcome for the new owners of the shopping center where Morleys is based.

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The former BHS shop in Bexleyheath is a Morleys

Allan Lockhart, property manager at NewRiver REIT, states: “We acquired Broadway shopping center in April 2016, shortly before BHS dropped into administration, which could’ve produced a large, unattractive vacancy at our shopping center.

“However, we immediately began working closely with the council [the freeholder] to swiftly secure a desirable new anchor store.

“The introduction of a Morley’s department store was a big success, signalling revitalisation and a vote of confidence to the town.”

Not every former BHS place has been so blessed with 82% of the sites unoccupied, according to study by the Local Data Company, which monitors vacancy and occupancy rates across all of the UK shopping destinations.

This drops to 60 percent or 96 shops if you strip out the stores which do have agreements in principle for the distance to be obtained, or are awaiting planning permission.

Meanwhile, four stores are demolished. One year on since the BHS stores closed, only 25 have been re-let.

So why have some stores been easier to occupy than others?

“I think it’s a manifestation of the challenges many high streets face, ” says Local Data Company manager, Matthew Hopkinson.

“If you look at where retail has moved, much of it has gone to out of town retail parks and shopping centers. In other words occupied a BHS have moved elsewhere.

“Many of these units were also quite large, with multiple floors, and expensive to re-occupy. “

The BHS of Stockport is one of those sites stubbornly empty, taking up a large corner of the Merseyway shopping centre.

The council is investing hundreds of millions of pounds to revitalise the town centre. It recently purchased the shopping center, a 1960s style complex which had been starved of investment and ended up in receivership.

Alex Ganotis, its chief, is convinced the vacant site has potential, although it doesn’t own the BHS shop.

“It just does not look good that we’ve got a shop this size in the center of the Merseyway Shopping Centre,” says Mr Ganotis.

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BHS shut up shop after administrators failed to find a buyer for the business

“It’s a successful centre with 95 percent of units let, with high levels of footfall. We feel this shop could easily be re-let.”

And he’s prepared to consider alternative uses for the website.

“Let’s have a conversation,” says Mr Ganotis. “The council is ready to work with anybody who has creative and new ideas as we do to transform this area.

“It could be re-let as only one store or split up in to a number of different stores or it may be used for other functions, like leisure.”

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Getty Images

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BHS had been on the UK High Street for 88 years

Solutions are being found.

The BHS shop for instance, is set to be transformed into retail on the ground floor, in addition to a hotel with a rooftop restaurant.

And in Taunton, a gym is being proposed for the level of its BHS shop.

Mr Hopkinson says: “I believe we have got to confront the brutal facts that the councils and the landlords’ve got to come together and plan alternative applications.

“That could be food or beverage or it could be leisure, or it could be re-occupied as accommodation. But they won’t be re-occupied as shops in the current climate,”

For some city centres, the outcome of the BHS collapse might be felt for months if not years to come.

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