Belfast Telegraph

Delay in business rates review 'harmed BHS'

By Ravender Sembhy

The Government must shoulder part of the blame for the collapse of BHS, which has four stores in Northern Ireland, after delaying a decision to review business rates, according to property experts.

Numbers crunched by estate agent Colliers show that the department store chain could have saved over £15m per year, or £75m over five years, had a critical revaluation gone ahead last year.

Under the current system, business rates are recalculated every five years, with the last revaluation taking place in 2010.

Had it not been postponed by the Government in 2015, Colliers said it would have seen thousands of retailers nationwide, including 90% of BHS stores, receive a reduction in their business rates bill.

BHS' current business rates bill stands at £44m per year.

John Webber, head of rating at Colliers, said: "The Government decision to delay the business rates revaluation in 2015 certainly had an impact on BHS.

"It's hard to know whether it was one of the final nails in the coffin, but clearly a £75m saving is a significant amount of money.

"Given that almost every other retail centre in the UK is predicted to have a drop in business rates, some respite was on the horizon for BHS. The fact remains that the current business rates regime has done nothing to stimulate healthy high streets."

BHS collapsed last month, putting 11,000 jobs at risk and its previous owners, including billionaire Sir Philip Green, have come in for widespread criticism for leaving the business with a £571m pension-fund black hole. Administrator Duff & Phelps has set a deadline of 5pm on Tuesday for offers for the chain. It is understood that potential buyers for some or all of the 164-store chain include Sports Direct, Ikea and discount retailer B&M.

On Monday, the chief executive of the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) Alan Rubenstein and Pensions Regulator chief executive Lesley Titcomb were grilled by MPs over their handling of the fund.

Separately, a campaign has been launched by the retailer to garner support following its administration.

British landmarks, including Marble Arch, were lit up last night with the words "#SaveBHS" projected on to them.

Tony Holdway, marketing and creative director of BHS, said: "The #SaveBHS campaign speaks on behalf of the 11,000 staff at risk and our millions of customers all over the UK who do not want to see another British institution disappear from the great British high street.

"We ask that everyone join us in support of British Home Stores, tweet or Instagram us with your messages using #SaveBHS." There are BHS units in Belfast city centre's Castle Place, in Holywood Exchange in the east of the city, as well as in Newtownabbey's Abbey Centre and in Lisburn's Bow Street Mall.

Belfast Telegraph