Belfast Telegraph

Sad end to retail giant as Belfast BHS store shuts up shop for the final time

By Rachel Martin

It was one of the powerhouse names in British retail.

But yesterday there were tears as staff at the Belfast branch of British Home Stores signalled the end of an era.

Tomorrow the shop will be one of the last of the few remaining BHS stores to close its doors for the last time.

Just a few rails of well-reduced stock remained as shoppers reminisced about the Belfast high street staple.

One woman began her career at the store 50 years ago when it opened, and was now among those overseeing its closure.

Several of the 57 staff were also long-serving - with many working there for over 40 years. Some are taking the closure as an opportunity to get back into education, while others have been left with nothing.

The retail stalwart will disappear completely from the high street this weekend, bringing an end to 88 years of history.

The firm's liquidation has affected 164 stores and 11,000 employees, including 152 across four outlets in Northern Ireland.

The company's failure has sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

"It feels wrong," Larne woman Carol Annett said.

"You've these girls who are losing their jobs and people are in rummaging through the clothes.

"It's disgraceful how the staff have been treated. They've been left with no jobs while their boss flies around the world."

For some, the shop had almost become part of their family.

Holywood woman Jane Spurling said: "I've been coming in for years, I always come and have a look because the clothes were good quality and the staff were always very pleasant. I feel sorry for them; a lot of them have been left with nothing.

"One girl was telling me she was going back to study.

"It's a bit like Debenhams, but it always had a nicer atmosphere." Newtownbreda woman Denise Evans said her late mother worked at the shop in the 1970s. Being back in the store brought back a lot of memories.

She said: "I've been shopping here for years. Some people say it's not particularly fashionable, but it's part of the city centre and will leave a big hole in Belfast. My mother was a supervisor here through Bloody Friday. I remember her talking about it a lot. She had happy memories working here. It feels like the end of an era. It's the last of the big shops to close in Belfast - first there was C&C and Woolies, now BHS."

Being back in the empty store brought back memories of their marriage 30 years ago for Neill and Susan Greenlee. The couple, from Lisburn, said they remembered coming to the store to spend money gifted to them for their wedding, and bought lights and curtains for their first home there.

Susan said: "It's a love it/hate it thing with BHS. People are always saying it's not particularly fashionable, but the thing about it is they do good clothes that last."

Belfast Telegraph


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