A permanent fixture on Britain's high streets for the past 88 years, the fight to save British Home Stores (BHS) has finally ended in defeat and will culminate in 11,000 job losses – a majority of which will be gone within a matter of weeks, according to administrators. The demise of BHS is the biggest collapse in Britain's retail sector since the downfall of Woolworths in 2008. All 163 BHS stores will close.
A spokesman for Sir Philip Green, who owned the retailer between 2000 and 2015, said he was "saddened and disappointed". Dominic Chappell, who bought the business from Green for £1 ($1.44) last year said he was "deeply sorry it has happened". BHS has been left with a £571m ($822m; €737m) pension deficit.
Administrators Duff & Phelps said that while offers were tabled, "it has not been possible to agree a sale of the business". The added: "Although multiple offers were received, none were able to complete a deal due to the working capital required to secure the future of the company."
While offers had been made, it is understood that any potential buyer would have needed a substantial sum of at least £100m from the outset to rebuild the business. Until recently Greg Tufnell, former managing director of Mothercare and Burton and brother of former England cricketer Phil, had been the frontrunner to buy the business, with the backing of a Portuguese consortium - but ultimately failed to convince investors he had enough funds to save BHS.
BHS became an iconic fixture on Britain's high streets after starting out as a single shop in Brixton, south London in 1928. Speaking outside the company's headquarters in Marylebone, employees expressed their frustration at its former leadership.
"It's our previous owners that anger is directed at. They took money out of the business that wasn't there to be taken. Whatever Mr Sir says, to walk away from a company with a big pension deficit like that is disgusting. It's not moral," said one unnamed employee, according to a report by the Guardian.
The sale and fall of BHS is subject to two parliamentary inquiries and both Green and Chappell will give evidence later this month. The Pensions Regulator is also looking into whether Green should pay up to plug the pensions deficit.