UK department store chain BHS to close with thousands of jobs lost

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By Euronews
UK department store chain BHS to close with thousands of jobs lost

One of Britain’s best known department store chains, British Home Stores (BHS), is to close after attempts to find a buyer failed.

More than 10,000 people will lose their jobs. That includes 8,000 BHS staff and 3,000 other who are not directly employed by the group such as contract workers.

BHS, which has 163 stores across Britain, had failed to keep pace with changes including the rise of cheaper, more fashionable stores like Primark and online competition.

“The British high street is changing and in these turbulent times for retailers, BHS has fallen as another victim of the seismic shifts we are seeing,” said administrator Philip Duffy who was brought in to try and sell it as a going concern.

‘Lamentable failure of behaviour’

Former owner Philip Green, has been heavily criticised for selling BHS with huge debts and staff pension liabilities after taking hundreds of millions of pounds out of it.

The head of Britain’s Institute of Directors, Simon Walker, accused Green of a “lamentable failure of behaviour” adding that his behaviour risked “deeply damaging” the British business world.

Green sold the chain to a group of little-known investors led by a former bankrupt called Dominic Chappell for one pound in March 2015.

The billionaire, who is Chairman of the Arcadia Group, a retail company that includes Topshop, Topman, Wallis, Evans, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, and Outfit, is to be questioned about that on June 15 by British lawmakers on the Work & Pensions and Business Committees.

The UK pensions regulator is also investigating whether Green’s Arcadia Group sought to avoid its responsibilities in the deal, and should be pursued for a contribution to make good BHS’s 571 million pound (735 million euro) pension deficit.

Business Minister Anna Soubry said the government had already announced an accelerated Insolvency Service investigation into the activity of former BHS directors.

“Any issues of misconduct will be taken extremely seriously,” Soubry said.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Sajid Javid, tweeted his reaction.