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‘We’ll listen to our customers,’ vows new BHS boss

BHS will listen to its customers and produce “quality product”, its new managing director has promised.



BHS will relaunch online under the ownership of Qatar-based firm Al Mana on Thursday. Al Mana bought the rights to use the BHS brand two months after it fell into administration in April.

David Anderson was international director at the time BHS collapsed and has now taken the helm. He said the team behind the online relaunch has been contacting customers and listening to their feedback since the beginning of August.

“We are passionate about this brand, it is iconic and has a fantastic heritage,” he told Drapers earlier today. “We have to make sure the business is built on solid ground, we listen to our customers and get the product right.”

He added: “In the old business, both online and international were successful and growing; so in a sense we are picking up where we left off.” 

The new, responsive BHS website will be “much clearer and uncluttered”, according to Anderson, and will take shoppers through to the checkout in two clicks.

The site will launch on Thursday with 500 lines of lighting and homeware. Fashion will be added to the mix at the end of October.

Sara Bradley, former BHS womenswear trading director and now buying director, said the fashion offer will be “more edited” than it was before, but will still include women’s, men’s and kids’ wear.

“Fashion will be a smaller proportion [of total business] to begin with but we plan to move up to an equal proportion with homeware depending on customer reaction,” she explained. “Ranges will be much smaller and tighter though.”

All BHS clothing will be own brand for the launch and the “vast majority” of suppliers are the same as before, she added.

BHS is not currently looking for concession partners, but may consider it in future. BHS previously had concessions from Arcadia brands, including Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge.

Anderson said BHS was adding “more style” into its fashion product, as the average online shopper is 10 years younger than BHS’s previous customer base.

“We are injecting more style into our fashion range as we are now targeting that 35 years and upwards customer. The online shopper is much younger than who we were targeting, so we have to make sure our ranges appeal to that younger age group.”

The retailer will also be less promotional going forward. Anderson ruled out one- day “mega Sales”, although BHS will take part in Black Friday this November. “We have already bought product in for it. The event is ingrained in the psyche of shoppers in the UK now.”

The focus will be on growing online sales and developing BHS’s international retail presence. It trades from 70 stores outside of the UK. 

Anderson said he “wouldn’t rule out” a return to the British high street at some stage, but emphasised that it is not a short-term priority.

“We are determined to build the online business on solid foundations. We don’t want to rush and we will get feedback as we go,” he insisted. 

“However, what I love about retail is that it changes every minute of the day, so we can’t rule out stores or the fact that we might be back on the high street one day. But we have no plans at the moment.”

The international stores are “performing well”, he added. BHS has signed up with two new franchise partners in “major territories”, although Anderson declined to give any specifics.

“Since we were bought we have had a lot of interest from potential franchise partners. Moving forward our international growth will be a mixture of working with our current partners, as well as developing and growing with new ones,” he said.

The retailer employs 84 people in its London office, all of whom are former BHS staff. It plans to hire more ex-BHS employees as it grows.

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