Closed depart­ment store ‘likely to re­main empty for some time’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - By Vicky Cas­tle

Nearly a year af­ter the col­lapse of depart­ment store chain BHS, fig­ures show more than two thirds of the shops still lie empty – in­clud­ing the one in Ash­ford.

The branch in County Square closed on July 24 last year but the shop­ping cen­tre has not yet found a new ten­ant to take over the huge unit.

The com­pany went into ad­min­is­tra­tion in April 2016 when it ran out of money just one year af­ter it was sold by Sir Philip Green to Dominic Chap­pell for £1

By June, the 88-year-old chain an­nounced that de­spite re­ceiv­ing mul­ti­ple of­fers, none were able to com­plete a deal that met the cap­i­tal needs of the busi­ness, which had a pen­sion deficit of more than £570.

More than 11,000 peo­ple lost their jobs as all 164 stores across the coun­try closed their doors.

To­day, ac­cord­ing to re­search by the Guardian, just 52 of BHS’s stores have found new tenants or have deals on the table – less than a third.

The Guardian said next week’s an­niver­sary – on Tues­day, April 25 – marks the big­gest high street fail­ure since Wool­worths went out of busi­ness in 2008.

Re­search by the na­tional pa­per shows shops within the Lon­don com­muter belt and in ma­jor ci­ties such as Leeds, Birm­ing­ham and Brighton have been filled by shops such as Next, Pri­mark and H&M.

But those fur­ther afield lie empty, adding an­other empty unit to the coun­try’s al­ready strug­gling high streets.

Speak­ing to the Guardian, Stu­art Mon­cur, head of na­tional re­tail and oc­cu­pier ser­vices at Cush­man and Wake­field, said tough re­tail trad­ing con­di­tions means peo­ple aren’t look­ing for the large stores oc­cu­pied by BHS.

He said: “With the sig­nif­i­cant change in con­sumers’ shop­ping habits and the early signs of weak­en­ing con­fi­dence, we don’t an­tic­i­pate ro­bust de­mand for new large stores over the com­ing months. Many of these for­mer BHS stores will lie va­cant for some time to come.”

A spokesman f or l et­ting agents MMX, which looks af­ter the avail­able units in County Square, said they have been look­ing at split­ting the large BHS store into sev­eral smaller spa­ces in a bid to find tenants.

Many of the for­mer units across the coun­try have al­ready been split up with the up­per floods con­sid­ered for al­ter­na­tive uses, such as gyms.

What would you like to see take over the va­cant BHS store? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­group.

Nearly a year af­ter the shut­ters went down at the Ash­ford BHS, above and, left, more than two thirds of the com­pany’s shops re­main empty

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