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End of an era as last 22 BHS stores set to shut

Published 26/08/2016

The last remaining BHS stores are expected to close this weekend, with the doomed retailer set to disappear from the high street entirely by Sunday.

Administrators to the department store chain are set to shut 22 stores on Sunday, bringing an end to 88 years of British retail history.

Duff & Phelps and FRP Advisory have already overseen 141 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 Philp's Arcadia retail empire, which includes Topshop.

John Hannett, general secretary of the shopworkers' union Usdaw, said: "Wherever the blame lies for the demise of this once great British retailer, it certainly is not with the staff who are paying a high price for corporate decisions that have led us to where we are today.

"There remains some very serious questions that need to be answered, by former owners of the business, about how a company with decades of history and experience in retail has now come to this very sorry end. In the meantime, we are providing the support, advice and representation our members require at this difficult time."

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