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Comeback kid? How plans to breathe new life into a familiar name

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Months after the demise of the BHS chain of high street stores, the brand is to stage a online comeback. starts trading on Thursday under the ownership of The Al Mana Group. It created BHS International (UK) Ltd when it bought, the BHS brand and the international franchise business in June 2016 – all areas of the business that it says were profitable before the failure of BHS. The new site employs 84 staff, most of whom worked for the retailer before it went into administration. They include David Anderson, who remains managing director of BHS International and will initially head up the website, buying director Sara Bradley and Dave West, head of creative. will start out with a focus on homewares and lighting – an area of BHS’ business that won praise from commentators such as Mary Portas over the summer.

The move echoes the launch of the Woolworths website after the demise of that high street chain. But that website, acquired by Shop Direct in 2009, the same year that Woolworths’ final branches closed, ultimately closed last year as its parent company decided to invest further in instead.

How will this BHS reboot breathe new life into the brand, previously a Leading retailer in the IRUK Top500 research? We cast an eye over its stated strategy.

Smaller range

At launch will focus on the products that were most popular on the BHS website – lighting and home furnishings products. These, say the new team, constituted more than 50% of BHS’ online revenue. The range will expand over time, with with addition of kitchen and dining ware and some clothing.

Focus on what worked

That range includes around 75% of the items that were most popular on before its demise. The focus at the new website will be on items from BHS’ former bathroom, cushion and lighting ranges that were bestsellers and will now be sold in the relaunch. BHS, says Anderson, “had a loyal customer base with around 1.2m British shoppers who bought from us online, and for our relaunch we have managed to secure many of the products they liked the most.”


The new business has the advantage of starting from scratch with the technology, with a website that it says will be “one of the most customer-friendly in the market”. Customers will be able to order and checkout in two clicks, logging onto the website using one device, such as a mobile phone, and continuing their shopping journey via a laptop of tablet.

Brand awareness

The BHS pedigree goes back to 1928 when a group of US entrepreneurs is said to have started the British Home Stores business to emuluate the-then highly successful Woolworths. Today the name is still well-known, though today it also evokes the high-profile struggle of the chain to survive. Still, the new team believes the name is a real advantage, thanks to assets that included a loyal customer base.

“Although we are starting again in the UK, we have a number of advantages over a typical start-up,” said Anderson. “We are nimble and efficient, but with a great brand, strong customer base and a proven and dedicated team.”

Our view:

When BHS failed over the summer, what stood out among the many pieces of commentary was the brand’s lack of ability to be distinctive. Others focused on the increasing importance of customer-centric retailing. What we’ve heard so far promises to give customers the range and technology that they want. The final question for now is whether this will be enough for BHS to stand out from the competition – and that only time will tell.

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