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BHS to close, winding down stores in Ashford, Gravesend, Hempstead Valley, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells

By Chris Price

BHS is to close after administrators failed to find a buyer for the ailing retailer, likely costing more than 11,000 jobs.

Stores will be wound down in Ashford, Gravesend, Hempstead Valley, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, as well as Bexleyheath and Bromley.

Administrators Duff and Phelps said multiple offers were received but none were able to complete a deal which met the capital needs of the business, which has a pension deficit of more than £570 million.

BHS will close in Ashford
BHS will close in Ashford

All 163 BHS stores will close in the coming weeks. Duff and Phelps said it would continue to try to sell stores but admitted 8,000 jobs “are likely to go”.

A further 3,000 jobs of non-BHS employees who work in the stores may also be at risk.

Staff at the store in Maidstone said they do not know when the store will close and will continue with a sale of their remaining stock.

The company fell into administration in April after struggling against discount fashion rivals and online shopping.

The retailer was sold to city investors Retail Acquisitions for £1 last year by Arcadia Group, owned by the billionaire retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, who also owns Topshop.

Mr Green has since been criticised over the sale and faced calls to answer questions in front of the business select committee.

The BHS in Gravesend
The BHS in Gravesend

Joint administrator Philip Duffy said “The British high street is changing and in these turbulent times for retailers, BHS has fallen as another victim of the seismic shifts we are seeing.

“The tireless work and goodwill of the existing management team and employees of BHS with the support of my team were not enough to change the fortunes of the company.”

Staff at its Gravesend store are also unaware when it will eventually close.

Shopper Helen Miller, 49, visits the store from Dartford to shop with her daughter, Eve.

She said: "Whenever we come to Gravesend we always come into BHS.

"I will be disappointed to see it go. There won't be much left in the high street once it does."

Fay Begent, 84, from Higham, said: "I think it's dreadful news. I thought they would find someone to save it.

"There must be something that could have been done.

"All that money they are going to have to pay to those people who will lose their jobs could have been put back into the store."

Gravesham Borough Council business development chief Cllr Samir Jassal said: “This is extremely disappointing news for the retail business and it will be a great loss to the town.

"Our team here at Gravesham council will work with the administrators and potential new owners to achieve a positive outcome as soon as possible.”

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