BHS collapse: 'This is not just a downturn, the High Street has changed for ever' - retail expert Kate Hardcastle

'You've got to have a gimmick', retail expert Kate Hardcastle warns of the changes to the high street

The collapse of BHS is a sign of the times, says retail expert

Friday, June 3, 2016

The British High Street has changed for ever, with the collapse of British Home Stores (BHS) just the latest step in an on-going evolution, retail expert Kate Hardcastle has told talkRADIO. 

BHS are about to close their doors for the final time, with the closure of all of the company's 163 stores and the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Previous owner Sir Philip Green sold the business in 2015 to Retail Acquisitions for just £1, in the process writing off £215 million in debts. Losses have continued to grow - they now stand at £1.3 billion, including more than £570m in pensions shortfall - and the failure to find a new buyer means BHS is set to go into liquidation. 

Hardcastle, the founder of business advice service Insight with Passion, says that the demise of BHS does not spell the end of the High Street, but does herald a period of profound change. 

"There is going to be retail in the future, but it’ll be much more social – retail with food and drink, cinema and theatre," she told Jonny Gould and Ash. 

"You’ve got to have a gimmick – price or service, great products or innovation, or just a great place to be. The days of just opening your doors and expecting people to come and buy your goods are gone. 

“Things have to change. What you might start seeing is that instead of that bland high street where you don’t know if you’re in Eastbourne or Devon or anywhere else it might have more identity to it. They might start selling the identity of the place they’re in. 

“It’s an evolution. It’s a new wave and a new time ahead."

The collapse of BHS follows the high-profile demise of Woolworths in 2009, and Hardcastle explained that, with shopping habits changing, finding a new role might prove difficult for the 11,000 staff about to be laid-off. 

"When Woolworths hit their bad spell, and many people were searching for new job opportunities, there were still thriving bits of the retail sector, with discounters taking on lots of people," she said.

"This time it’s very different. Now 15-20% of our shopping is done online and that is going to really effect the look and feel of the high street for ever. 

"Not just a downturn, for ever."