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Northern Ireland's last BHS stores to stay open extra week to shift stock

By Margaret Canning and PA

Published 17/08/2016

Shoppers pass by BHS in Belfast
Shoppers pass by BHS in Belfast

Northern Ireland's two remaining BHS stores are staying open for at least a week longer than expected as administrators try and shift stock at the failed retailer, it has emerged.

The stores at Castle Place in Belfast city centre and at Holywood Exchange in east Belfast have been given a provisional closing date of August 28 - eight days later than planned.

But it is understood they could remain open even longer if the administrators believe there is enough stock remaining to attract customers.

Two other Northern Ireland stores have already shut. The branch at Lisburn's Bow Street Mall closed on July 23 with the loss of 24 jobs, while the Abbeycentre BHS, which employed 38 people, closed on July 30.

Yesterday, however, the chain's Northern Ireland flagship at Castle Place was bustling with bargain hunters. It employs 57 staff, while there are 33 in Holywood Exchange.

Former owner Sir Philip Green - who sold the chain for £1 two years ago - has received much of the blame for the business's collapse.

No one from administrators Duff & Phelps was available for comment, but a source close to the situation said: "It had been expected that stores would be closed for August 20, but due to stock levels the timeline has been extended by about a week."

As well as the usual BHS wares of clothing and bed linen, its shelves in Belfast city centre and other stores around the UK also feature stock from Denby - the famous crockery brand.

It is understood it has been supplied to BHS stores by Hilco, the corporate turnaround company that is handling the liquidation of BHS.

Duff & Phelps has overseen a total of 163 closures over recent weeks, with the latest being BHS's flagship Oxford Street store on Saturday.

The firm'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 has borne the brunt of the public fallout, having been branded "the unacceptable face of capitalism" by MPs.

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

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

Veteran Labour MP Frank Field has asked the Serious Fraud Office to launch a formal investigation into the pair.

David Gill, of shop workers' union Usdaw, said: "The remaining BHS staff are going through the difficult and heart-breaking task of dismantling stores that many of them have been in for most of their working lives.

"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.

"Sir Philip Green needs to honour the two promises he made to BHS staff and pensioners after the company went into administration.

"Firstly, to offer employment within the Arcadia Group to the blameless, dedicated and loyal staff who suddenly find themselves unemployed.

"Secondly, to sort the pension scheme - we are still waiting to hear the details of what he proposes."

Belfast Telegraph

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