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Former BHS shop in County Square, Ashford ‘likely to remain empty for some time’

By Vicky Castle

Nearly a year after the collapse of department store chain BHS, figures show more than two thirds of the shops still lie empty – including the one in Ashford.

The branch in County Square closed on July 24 last year but the shopping centre has not yet found a new tenant to take over the huge unit.

The company went into administration in April 2016 when it ran out of money just one year after it was sold by Sir Philip Green to Dominic Chappell for £1.

The Ashford store held a countdown to its closure

By June, the 88-year-old chain announced that despite receiving multiple offers, none were able to complete a deal that met the capital needs of the business, which had a pension deficit of more than £570.

More than 11,000 people lost their jobs as all 164 stores across the country closed their doors.

Today, according to research by the Guardian, just 52 of BHS’s stores have found new tenants or have deals on the table – less than a third.

The Guardian said next week’s anniversary – on Tuesday, April 25 – marks the biggest high street failure since Woolworths went out of business in 2008.

The BHS department chain went into administration in April 2016

Research by the national paper shows shops within the London commuter belt and in major cities such as Leeds, Birmingham and Brighton have been filled by shops such as Next, Primark and H&M.

But those further afield lie empty, adding another empty unit to the country’s already struggling high streets.

Speaking to the Guardian, Stuart Moncur, head of national retail and occupier services at Cushman and Wakefield, said tough retail trading conditions means people aren’t looking for the large stores occupied by BHS.

Staff said a final farewell to BHS in County Square

He said: “With the significant change in consumers’ shopping habits and the early signs of weakening confidence, we don’t anticipate robust demand for new large stores over the coming months. Many of these former BHS stores will lie vacant for some time to come.”

A spokesman for letting agents MMX, which looks after the available units in County Square, said they have been looking at splitting the large BHS store into several smaller spaces in a bid to find tenants.

Many of the former units across the country have already been split up with the upper floods considered for alternative uses, such as gyms.

What would you like to see take over the vacant BHS store? Join in the conversation below, on Facebook, write to Kentish Express, 34-36 North Street, Ashford TN24 8JR or email kentishexpress@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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