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BHS in bid to cut cost of rent could hit Northern Ireland outlets

By John Mulgrew

Published 08/03/2016

BHS is seeking to make severe rent cuts
BHS is seeking to make severe rent cuts

The future of department store chain BHS's Northern Ireland outlets could be in doubt as the troubled retailer is seeking severe rent cuts in order to save stores across the UK.

It's understood BHS has been working with KPMG, and has drawn up a proposal which will see it seeking reductions in rent on 87 stores.

The CVA is a form of insolvency which allows businesses to change and alter its lease arrangements in order to reach financial compromise with creditors.

BHS operates four stores in Northern Ireland. That includes a large site in the heart of Belfast city centre, along with three others in Newtownabbey, Holywood and Lisburn.

The retailer said 40 of it stores would need to secure a "substantial" reduction, of at least 75%.

One commercial property source said it had been "on the cards for a while".

"You would question whether the product is right for the market," the source said. "BHS has big units and rental liabilities, and in the current market conditions it's probably in need of some updating.

"It depends on what the level of reduction is, and what that will be for the Belfast store."

Darren Topp, BHS's chief executive has said: "The CVA proposal that we have announced today is a necessary milestone in resetting British Home Stores to ensure its long-term future as an iconic British retail brand.

"Some of our stores are loss making as we are being charged rents that are too high relative to today's market. The CVA will address this issue."

No one from BHS responded to requests for comment.

Last year, Sir Philip Green of Arcadia Group - which owns Topshop, Burton and Evans - sold the chain to an investment vehicle called Retail Acquisitions Ltd for the nominal sum of £1. And in March the new owners were said to be "exploring options" including closures for the future of around a third of its 171 sites.

Belfast Telegraph

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