British Home Stores, a high street fixture for 88 years, is expected to file for administration on Monday, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.
The Guardian reported that BHS owner Dominic Chappell sent a letter to employees on Sunday saying: “It is with a deep heart that I have to report, despite a massive effort from the team, we have been unable to secure a funder or a trade sale.”
He added: “I would like to say it has been a real pleasure working with all of you on the BHS project, one I will never forget, you all need to keep you heads held high, you have done a great job and remember that it was always going to be very, very hard to turn around,” according to the Guardian. Chappell indicated that staff will be paid to the end of the month.
The BBC reported that the BHS management is in talks with Sports Direct to buy some of the company’s 164 stores, but would only do so without taking on £571 million of pension liabilities.
Chappell’s Retail Acquisitions consortium bought BHS from Sir Phillip Green for £1 last year. Green had previously bought the chain for £200 million in 2000. The consortium attempted to turn around BHS’ fortunes but falling sales, increased competition online and on the high street and a ballooning pension deficit scuppered those plans.
The factors undermining BHS aren’t specific to the company. Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital said: “It’s not just BHS that’s suffering – shares are down sector-wide over the last 12 months — reflecting investor caution about an industry that’s increasingly dependent on cheap credit and little else to drive it.”
“The concern is that if interest rates rise — which they will have to do sooner or later – consumers will quickly tighten their belts and dispense with their credit cards. Meanwhile, retailers’ margins are being squeezed by the new living wage, which is driving up wage costs when there is little sign of meaningful sales price growth,” Rundle said in an emailed statement.
BHS started life in 1928 after a group of American entrepreneurs opened a shop in Brixton, making its debut on the London Stock Exchange five years later.