At 88-years-old, BHS is on the brink of folding.
Administrators were brought in to find a buyer for the retailer – which employs around 11,000 people in 164 stores across the UK – yesterday (April 25), throwing its future into turmoil.
But stepping into its Chester branch today (Tuesday, April 26), you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as they seem, with sizeable queues at the checkouts, and plenty of couples and friends out hunting for a bargain – including half price studio lamps and 60% off luggage deals.
But the stats speak for themselves. BHS is struggling with debts of more than £1.3 billion and has a £571 million pension deficit.
When the Chronicle paid a visit to the Foregate Street store, sales assistants were wary of going against the company line of ‘no comment’, with one looking emotional as she politely declined our invitation to talk about the uncertainty facing her and her colleagues.
And the throng of shoppers belies usual footfall, according to one sales assistant who said the shop is normally much quieter than it has been since news of the administration broke.
A pair of female friends said they would be ‘sad’ if BHS disappeared from Chester’s high street because of the wide selection it offers, and blamed the rise in online shopping for its troubles.
Another twosome visiting from Macclesfield said they always pop into BHS in Chester because there isn’t one in their hometown and they think it’s a ‘nice’ shop.
They added it would be a ‘terrible shame’ for the workers and hoped a buyer can be found.
If one is not, it will be the biggest collapse on the British high street since Woolworths in 2008.
Chronicle readers shared their memories and theories on the chain’s downfall on our Facebook page.
'British retail icon'
Di Rosenthal said: “A very sad day for everybody who works there and their families. Hope a rescue solution can be found.”
“Gutted, another British retail icon at risk, hope BHS can be saved,” Rachel Gabiola wrote.
Irene Henderson commented: “They have always been overpriced, now cheaper shops have come on to the high street people realise this and have gone elsewhere.”
‘Queen of Shops’ Mary Portas penned an opinion piece for the Guardian in which she declared the historical position of BHS has been delivering ‘good quality, decent stuff for people on a budget’, but it has sadly became irrelevant as its competitors moved with the times and re-imagined themselves.