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BHS disappears from the high street as remaining stores close down

Published 28/08/2016

Shoppers pass by BHS in Belfast
Shoppers pass by BHS in Belfast
Administrators to the department store chain are set to shut 22 stores on Sunday, the last of more than 150 branches nationwide

The doors have finally closed on one of the staples of the British high street, as BHS stores served their customers for the final time.

The last bargain hunters could be seen emerging from the department store clutching heavily discounted items as the last of the 150 BHS branches closed for good, 88 years after the business was introduced to towns and cities across the country.

In Walthamstow, north London, shoppers rummaged through boxes of heavily discounted goods, with discarded items strewn across the floor.

Paul Campbell, who lives locally, left the store shortly after 4pm with a trolley full of DVDs.

He said: "I've paid a pound for this lot. I reckon it's about 200 or so DVDs, if they are all there in the right cases.

"There are some Rugby World Cup box sets, golf DVDs which I'll give to my mate, the rest I will sell or give to the local charity shops.

"At the end of the day, I've paid a pound for all this. It's not really much of a risk."

Veedoo Clash, from Tottenham, said she was sad to see BHS leave the high street, having shopped at the branch for 28 years.

She said: "I just grabbed whatever I could.

"I went to Oxford Street when it closed, I bought lots of things for my husband and the grandchild, but I hid them because I didn't want my husband to see. Then I came here to Walthamstow.

"I have always liked BHS for their quality and good-fitting clothes, so it is a sad day."

In York, the doors of the store were locked to customers before its official 4pm closing time.

Inside, staff could be seen hugging one another on the shopfloor, which had been stripped of all stock, fixtures and fittings.

One staff member removed the window dressings as they prepared to leave for the last time.

A number of shoppers tried unsuccessfully to open the locked doors.

One woman said: "I needed some new clothes so I thought I would come down here today but it is closed.

"I always shop at BHS so it is really sad to see it close down."

Administrators Duff & Phelps and FRP Advisory have overseen scores of closures over recent weeks, including BHS's flagship Oxford Street store in London's West End.

The department store's collapse in April has affected 11,000 jobs, 22,000 pensions, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

Retail billionaire Sir Philip Green has borne the brunt of the public fallout, having been branded the "unacceptable face of capitalism" by furious MPs.

Sir Philip owned BHS for 15 years before selling it to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015.

Sir Philip has come under fire for taking more than £400 million in dividends from the chain, leaving it with a £571 million pension deficit and for selling it to a man with no retail experience.

Veteran Labour MP Frank Field has asked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to launch a formal investigation into the pair to ascertain if any criminal wrongdoing occurred during the sale of the chain and throughout their respective ownerships.

It has also emerged that Mr Field is probing Sir Philip's Arcadia retail empire, which includes Topshop.

Store worker Janet Scott, 61, from Haxby, York, wiped tears from her eyes as she described how she had worked at BHS for just under 20 years.

She said: "It's a sad day. I'm gutted."

Mrs Scott said the last day in the store had been "manic" and added: "But the staff were feeling quite upbeat and feeling positive about it. You've just got to get on and do the job, haven't you?"

She said she would miss the customers after working for years in the schoolwear department.

She said: "People come in that you've seen every week. I've seen children growing up from that age to getting their last school uniform."

Bronte Hardy, 18, from Tadcaster, said she had worked at the York store since leaving school at 16.

She said she was angry at the closure, describing it as "unfair".

Shopper Alan Steele, 62, from York, said he had visited the store earlier in the week and described it as being like a "jumble sale".

He said fixtures and fittings, such as mannequins, were being sold off as the shop was cleared out and he saw one customer leave with a pile of cardboard boxes.

He said: "It's very sad, very sad. It's been an institution over the years and I'll be sad to see it go."

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