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BHS owners appoint agents to review store portfolio

The new owners of BHS have appointed property consultants to review the store portfolio and its structure, one option of which could be the closure of some stores.

A list is being circulated in the property industry, seen by Drapers, which details 52 of the department store chain’s 171 UK stores under review.

The list identifies the Oxford Street flagship store, as well as stores in cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Milton Keynes and York.

Retail Acquisitions, which took control of the retailer from Sir Philip Green last week, has appointed property agents Jackson Criss, Vail Williams and Charles Palmer Property.  

A spokesman for Retail Acquisitions told Drapers that the owners, together with BHS management, are looking at options for the property portfolio and its structure.  

“Property consultants have been appointed, but this does not mean that any leases that may be under review will be sold, and certainly does not mean that store closure is the only option,” he said.

He explained that options could include sub-letting under-utilised space or renegotiating payment terms and that BHS management is also exploring opening new stores in the right locations.

“BHS management has been clear, prior to the sale of the business, that certain loss-making stores might be sold at the right price, and in keeping with this the stores in Canterbury, Cardiff, Aylesbury, Bath and Thanet have been closed over the last 18 months.

“Prior to Retail Acquisitions’ purchase of BHS, the decision had been made to close the Oxford and Fosse Park stores [in Leicester] – which will happen in the coming months.”

A property source told Drapers the list could be a “litmus test” to see what the appetite is for these stores. “That number is likely to bob up and down in the coming weeks,” he added as the new owners review the property portfolio.

“They are likely to be trying to agree deals for some of the stores with Primark and TK Maxx, but owing to the size of most BHS stores, the ability to sell on the units will depend on whether the leases will enable them to be split up into smaller spaces to suit other retailers.”

It comes as Darren Topp has been appointed as the retailer’s interim chief executive with immediate effect today, replacing Richard Price, who is moving to Tesco’s F&F clothing brand.

When the acquisition was announced on Thursday (March 12), a spokesman for Retail Acquisitions said BHS stores would continue to operate as normal, with all stores remaining open and no redundancies.

It has also emerged that Mark Tasker and Stephen Bourne are no longer directors at Retail Acquisitions. A spokesman said: “Mark Tasker and Stephen Bourne were board members for the specific purpose of putting the deal together. It was never intended that they continue as board members post the deal’s completion.”

Drapers has contacted BHS, Jackson Criss and Charles Palmer Property for comment.

@Tara_Hounslea

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