End of an era as BHS shuts shop in Belfast city centre for last time

Staff saying goodbye as Bhs in Belfast city centre closed its doors for the final time on Sunday. Picture by Ann McManus
John Monaghan

FOR staff at BHS in Belfast it was the end of an era yesterday as the store closed its doors for the final time.

After 50 years as a firm fixture at the heart of the city centre, bare floors and shelves were the only sight that greeted the public as they passed by the store in Castle Lane on Sunday afternoon.

The store officially shut for the final time at 4pm.

Staff posed for photographs outside to celebrate their last day, but declined to speak to the waiting reporters.

The Belfast city centre branch was one of 22 stores to close on Sunday, with a total of 152 staff affected in Northern Ireland, following the shutting of stores in Abbeycentre, Bow Street Mall in Lisburn and Holywood Exchange.

Across the UK, 164 shops closed and 11,000 employees lost their jobs as a result.

There has been deep wrangling over its closure, with a parliamentary inquiry and its former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

The retail giant was placed into administration in April but a buyer was not able to be found.

The firm, which opened in London in 1928, expanded rapidly after the Second World War, but encountered serious difficulties in the last decade and much of the blame has been laid at the door of its two most recent owners, Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell.

Retail billionaire Sir Philip Green bought BHS from Storehouse Plc for £200m in the year 2000, and it created a profit in his early years in charge.

However, it was badly affected by the recession and was sold by Mr Green last year for £1 to Retail Acquisitions, led by Dominic Chappell, a move which saw £215m of debts written off.

It remains unclear what level of pensions workers will receive, amidst reports of a £600m pension 'black hole' in the company, as talks continue between Mr Green and the pensions regulator.


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