Retail Acquisitions will retain the existing management of BHS and appoint a “retail heavyweight” as chairman to manage the business and extend its scope in terms of new concessions, online and international expansion.
A spokesman described the company as a group of dealmakers – lawyers, accountants and financiers – who have engineered a deal to take control of the troubled department store chain on a debt-free basis.
Contrary to much speculation, he denied that a “dowry” was paid by Sir Philip Green, owner of Arcadia, which until today controlled BHS. Retail Acquisitions will take on the BHS pension fund, which has an estimated deficit of £130m.
The team is made up of director Stephen Charles Bourne, director Dominic Chappell, solicitor Mark Tasker, solicitor Edward Parladorio, company director Lennart David Henningson and chairman Keith Smith.
They will focus on revamping the existing BHS store estate and adding new concessions outside of the Arcadia portfolio.
BHS already has a number of Arcadia concessions in stores and it is understood this model will continue, but the Retail Acquisitions team sees an opportunity to bring in new concessions, too.
“These could be beyond fashion, with more homeware, food, electricals and financial services,” said the spokesman. “There is also scope to further roll out the food trials that have currently been taking place in some stores.”
BHS has 173 UK stores, of which 14 are dedicated home stores.
Retail Acquisitions is also planning to explore international expansion opportunities, as the department store chain has 88 stores overseas, primarily in the Middle East, Malaysia and Russia.
The website, which currently receives approximately 5 million unique visits per month, presents another opportunity to improve both the offer and the way it operates, he said.
The team will not be running the business on a day-to-day basis, but will support the existing management and new chairman to make a success of the “somewhat neglected” business. They have approached a number of candidates, including former Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green, who declined to take discussions further. No appointment has been confirmed as yet.
Retail Acquisitions, which was incorporated in November last year, was not formed with the sole purpose of acquiring BHS and may consider acquiring further businesses at a later date, although BHS is its primary focus at the moment.
The spokesman said BHS stores will continue to operate as normal, with all stores remaining open and no redundancies. It will remain a department store business with a heavy focus on fashion, although new categories may be explored, he said.