Scores of workers at the BHS store in Huddersfield face an uncertain future after the retailer confirmed it has gone into administration.
Nationally, 11,000 jobs are at risk after the announcement that owners of the 88-year-old department chain were unable to secure a rescue package to save the business.
The collapse of BHS is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths folded in 2008 with the loss of almost 30,000 jobs.
Retail experts said BHS has suffered from years of under-investment, leaving its range and estate looking tired.
Administrators said the BHS stores would continue to trade while efforts are made to sell the business as a going concern.
The BHS store at The Shambles in Huddersfield was trading as usual as staff were told about the administration.
Store manager Anne McNab said she was not able to comment.
The Huddersfield store forms a major part of the Piazza Shopping Centre and employs about 60 staff. The store opened a section selling food in October last year as part of efforts to attract more customers.
Piazza Centre manager Vernon O’Reilly said it was good news that BHS was continuing to trade and that a buyer was being sought.
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He said the Huddersfield store was “very profitable” adding: “What stands the Huddersfield store in good stead is that it does trade really well. It was number one in the Yorkshire region for BHS last year and is regularly in the top three.”
He said it was “fingers crossed” that BHS could find a buyer to run the business as BHS or another big multiple looking for space who would be interested in taking the premises.
Mr O’Reilly said the BHS store accounted for about 20% of total trading space at the Piazza. Other tenants include Boots, Poundworld, WH Smith, Superdrug, Evans and Dorothy Perkins.
BHS has its other Yorkshire stores in Wakefield, Leeds city centre, the White Rose shopping centre and Meadowhall.
John Hannett, general secretary of shopworkers’ union Usdaw, said the demise of BHS was “devastating” for its employees, adding: “We urge the company to change their attitude to trade unions and begin a dialogue with us at this difficult and worrying time.”
He said: “We are in touch with our members working in BHS to reassure them that we will provide the support, advice and representation they require.”
BHS, which was bought last year by Retail Acquisitions Ltd for £1 from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, has debts of more than £1.3bn, including a pension fund deficit of £571m.
Sir Philip is reported to have offered £80m towards the cost of BHS pensions, though the pensions regulator could still pursue further payment from the retail billionaire. Sir Philip bought BHS for £200m.
Rival retailer Sports Direct is understood to want to some of BHS’s 164 stores, but will only do take them if it does not have to take on any pension liabilities.
BHS owner Dominic Chappell has said that “no one is to blame” for the retailer’s difficulties.He said: “It was a combination of bad trading and not being able to raise enough money from the property portfolio. In the end, we just couldn’t reach an agreement with Arcadia over pensions.”
He said he would continue to work with the administrators Duff & Phelps to “find a solution post the administration”.
In a statement, Duff & Phelps said: “The group has been undergoing restructuring and, as has been widely reported, the shareholders have been in negotiations to find a buyer for the business. These negotiations have been unsuccessful.
“In addition property sales have not materialised as expected in both number and value. Consequently, as a result of a lower-than-expected cash balance, the group is very unlikely to meet all contractual payments.
“The directors therefore have no alternative but to put the group into administration to protect it for all creditors. The group will continue to trade as usual whilst the administrators seek to sell it as a going concern.”
The fashion and homewares chain was thrown a lifeline last month when creditors backed two company voluntary arrangements (CVA) designed to revive its ailing business by cutting the cost of its leases and preventing widespread store closures.
However, the deal hit problems last week when a £60m loan, making up a crucial part of the deal, had not been secured.
What went wrong at the chain that launched its first store in Brixton in 1928.
Why has BHS filed for administration?
The chain’s new owner Retail Acquisitions failed to secure a £60m loan last week, which left its rescue package roughly only half as big the consortium needed to save the business. The collapse of BHS is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths folded in 2008 with the loss of almost 30,000 jobs.
How big are the debts at BHS?
The retailer has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million. Retail Acquisitions bought BHS last year for £1 from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green. Sir Philip bought BHS for £200 million in 2000.
But I thought BHS was close to a rescue deal?
Last month the firm said its creditors, who are largely its landlords, had backed turnaround plans to reduce the rent at half of BHS’s stores and allow the chain to walk away from some leases early. But it emerged that funding for that deal was not as secure as was originally thought.
What happens now?
The chain has been placed into the hands of administrators Duff & Phelps. It said that the chain for the time being will trade as a going concern, while it tries to find a buyer for the whole of the business. However, most experts say the business is more likely to fold, with stores sold off to the highest bidders.
Rival retailer Sports Direct is understood to want to some of BHS’s 164 stores, but will only do so if it does not have to take on any pension liabilities.
How did BHS get into this state?
BHS has lost money for each of the past seven years, as retail experts said the firm has suffered from many years of under-investment, leaving its range and estate looking tired.