New BHS boss: Our brand needs to regain ‘iconic status’ to enable turnaround

The turnaround plan for the ailing store is “very clear”, and includes rebranding the business and introducing food, he said.

BHS currently has 171 stores, and made pre-tax losses of around £85m for the year ended August 2014.
One analyst said BHS had room to make changes, but it needed a more exciting clothing range.

Mr Topp said BHS planned to update its window and shop displays with new visual merchandising and new mannequins, “to better show off a new range of products”.

Introducing food will also be a major part of BHS’s “very clear turnaround plan”, he said.
The store chain completed a food trial in three stores last year, and is in the middle of extending it to 20 stores.

“What we’re really determined to do is to bring this brand back to its iconic status on the High Street,” Mr Topp said.

“We owe it to the million customers a week who shop with us currently, who’ve stuck with us, and the 10,000 people who work here in the business to take every opportunity we can to really reinvigorate and re-energise a great British brand,” he added.

Some stores may close, but the firm is looking at other options, including sub-letting floor space, he said – adding that there are 20 locations where BHS would like to open.

Retail Acquisitions, the investment vehicle which bought BHS for £1 from Sir Philip Green, had been “very supportive” of the operational team, he said.

Richard Perks, a retail analyst at Mintel, told the BBC that BHS was in a precarious state, “but it has got a lifeline”, as it was sold on debt free.

“Philip Green may not have done anything with the business but at least he sold it on with a clean balance sheet, and the company’s been able to raise another £65m, so it’s got the headroom to do the things it needs,” Mr Perks said.

He said food should bring customers back into the store, and “footfall is half of the battle”.
But he added that BHS had to update its clothing ranges. “BHS has aged with its customers, and that’s why it’s in such trouble at the moment. It needs more exciting ranges aimed at younger customers… and I’m not saying 15 to 25s, I’m saying 40-year-olds.”

Food should give it time to get new clothing ranges in, and “time is what it needs”, Mr Perks said.