BHS went into administration in April last year after failing to get customers into its stores. Now, after successfully securing a buyer for its online properties, the department store is set to reopen next week as an online retailer.
As part of the relaunch, BHS has scrapped its once wide range of product verticals and is honing in on lighting and home furnishings, which made up over 50 per cent of BHS’s online revenue before it shut up shop earlier this year, according to the brand.
BHS.com will open for business in the UK on Thursday (29 September), and over the coming weeks will add new ranges to its offering including kitchen and dining ware, and clothing items. The new-look website will have a smaller range of products than it did before, but a greater focus on items that are ‘best-sellers’.
The redesigned website makes it easier for customers to navigate order and checkout, and has been optimised for an omnichannel experience for the first time, following in the footsteps of its rival John Lewis. It was BHS’ unwillingness to adapt to a digital world that helped push the brand it into unmanageable debt in the first place.
In June 2016, weeks after BHS went into administration after failing to secure a buyer to take on its £571m pensions deficit, BHS International (UK) Limited, which was formed by the Al Mana Group, acquired BHS.com, the International franchise business, and the BHS brand.
The Al Mana Group operates in a number of sectors including retail, automotive, real estate, media and technology. It represents a range of high profile brands including: Zara, Mango, Armani Exchange, United Colors of Benetton and Reebok.
At the time of BHS going into administration, its international and online businesses were profitable and growing, the brand claims. As a result, the Al Mana Group has retained many of the key people running this side of the business including David Anderson, managing director of BHS International, Sara Bradley, buying director, and Dave West, head of creative.
The new BHS, which will be headquartered in London, has 84 employees – the vast majority of who worked for the retailer before it went into administration. David Anderson will be overseeing the launch of the UK online business, with a view to recruiting an executive at a later date to run this operation.
He said: “We are thrilled to be relaunching this iconic brand back into the UK. It had a loyal customer base with around 1.2 million British shoppers who bought from us online, and for our relaunch we have managed to secure many of the products they liked the most.
“In addition to this, we have developed a new specially designed online platform for our UK business so we are not inheriting any legacy systems, and we were able to recruit the majority of people who worked on the profitable online and international operations of BHS before it went into administration.
“So although we are starting again in the UK, we have a number of advantages over a typical start-up. We are nimble and efficient, but with a great brand, strong customer base and a proven and dedicated team.”
It's a deal that is reminiscent of music store HMV's similar battle with dwindling customers to its brick-and-mortar stores, going into administration in January 2013. In April of the same year the brand was rescued from disappearing from the high street completely through a Hilco acquisition worth £50m that included 141 stores and 2,500 jobs.