• High street departures from BHS, Austin Reed

Boroughs across London will be hoping that new retailers will move in to fill major high street stores vacated by the demise of BHS and Austin Reed.
The loss of BHS is the largest high street casualty to fall since Woolworths closed in 2008. All 163 stores around the UK are to close, after administrators failed to find a buyer; while at Austin Reed, 120 stores will close after Edinburgh Woollen Mill bought just the brand name but not the retail chain.
Across London, there were 17 BHS stores including the Oxford Street flagship; while Austin Reed also number a half dozen stores across the capital and within the M25.
Stephen Springham, head of retail research at Knight Frank told retail publication Drapers: “Most affected landlords have started to build some degree of contingency, but some stores will inevitably be easier to re-let to other occupiers than others. A whole host of retailers will have already run the slide rule over the estate and will cherry pick those that suit their needs. For some, there may be healthy interest from a number of parties, others may need to realign rental value to become attractive.”
Jonathan De Mello of agency Harper Dennis Hobbs predicted a discount-oriented angle to the replacement tenants: “The food consent Sir Philip Green had secured on many of the units will make the majority of them attractive to discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, who are both looking to rapidly expand their store portfolios in as short a time as possible.”
“Other retailers that may potentially be interested in ex-Bhs stores would include grocers that are looking to expand their c-store portolio such as Tesco, Sainsburys and others, as well as pound shop operators such as Poundland and Poundworld.”

LPA Perspective: It seems London boroughs should, by and large, have little concern from the demise of the two retail brands. There are plenty of mostly discount-oriented retailers, who will be prepared to take on empty shop units. The BHS shops, being of a larger size that is not generally freely available, are likely to prove attractive to a range of discount retailers who are on the rise in the UK currently.
Fortunately, this is one situation where the market should provide – no need for the planners to be wringing their hands, or worrying about dying high streets any more than they might already be.

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