BHS administration: Sad decline of a great High Street name...

BHS Kirkcaldy - the first BHS to open in Scotland in 1964.
BHS Kirkcaldy - the first BHS to open in Scotland in 1964.

It held the distinction of being Scotland’s first ever BHS - but the future of the store in Kirkcaldy is now in serious doubt.

Unable to meet ongoing costs, the struggling retail chain collapsed into administration on Monday putting approximately 30 jobs in Kirkcaldy at risk.

Across the UK, 11,000 employees and 164 stores are affected.

According to the union Usdaw, anxious staff were left devastated by the news

John Hannett, general secretary added: “We urge the company to change their attitude to trade unions and begin a dialogue with us at this difficult and worrying time.

“We also urge the administrators and the company to comply with the law, consult with staff and Usdaw as the union for BHS workers.

“We don’t want to see BHS staff locked out of discussions, sent to the back of the queue of creditors and treated like fixtures and fittings, as happened at Woolworth’s.”

Administrators Duff and Phelps were called in after BHS owner Retail Acquisitions failed in its attempt to close a last-minute rescue deal.

The 88 year-old company, which was sold by Topshop tycoon Sir Philip Green a year ago for £1, is currently crippled by £1.3bn in debts, including a £571 million pension deficit.

Green - who has been dubbed the ‘King of the High Street’ - previously bought British Home Stores for £200m in 2000.

Administrators confirmed the stores would be kept open as attempts are made to find another buyer.

Around 50 expressions of interest have been lodged to date, including a ‘mature’ bid from Retail Acquisitions’ majority shareholder Dominic Chappell.

On Monday, a spokesman for Duff and Phelps said: “The group has been undergoing restructuring and, as has been widely reported, the shareholders have been in negotiations to find a buyer for the business.

“These negotiations have been unsuccessful.

“In addition property sales have not materialised as expected in both number and value.

“Consequently, as a result of a lower than expected cash balance, the group is very unlikely to meet all contractual payments.

“The directors therefore have no alternative but to put the group into administration to protect it for all creditors.

“The group will continue to trade as usual whilst the administrators seek to sell it as a going concern.”

The store is operating a limited refunds and returns policy and frustrated customers in Kirkcaldy have also discovered that BHS will only honour 50 per cent of the value of gift vouchers.

For example, to use up a £20 voucher, a customer is obliged to buy goods to the value of £40.

One mother-of-two in Kirkcaldy told the Press: “My mum is 80 and has been buying at BHS for God knows how long.

“She has many gift vouchers and that’s her money but they are saying she can’t just spend it! I feel for elderly customers.”

British Home Stores opened its first Scottish branch on Kirkcaldy High Street in May 1964 and the name became a landmark locally.

The Press spoke to customers to gather their reactions to the latest news.

A local mother-of-two said: “If BHS closes it will be devastating for the town.

“We had an Australian person here yesterday, who left Kirkcaldy 40 years ago, and she couldn’t believe that the high street was all charity shops.”

Carolyn Bonallie commented: “It’s really sad. If BHS goes there’s not a lot of shops for the over 50s.

“People say it hasn’t kept up with the times but I don’t think that’s true. They have a lovely lighting, bedding and children’s section.

“I think it’s sad for the workers and the fact that they didn’t know what was going on wasn’t fair.”

When the store first opened, it sold a variety of goods including electrical products and also featured a popular cafe.

“My mum used it all the time,” said Irene Smith from Kirkcaldy, who reminisced about Kirkcaldy High Street’s ‘golden age’ in the 1980s.

“There’s a lot of businesses failing but the Scottish Government has got a lot to answer for. It needs to reduce the rates.

“Tesco closing was the nail in the coffin for the High Street.”

MP Roger Mullin described the news as a “devastating blow” to BHS staff in in his Kirkcaldy constituency.

He commented: “BHS has been a stalwart of Kirkcaldy High Street for as long as I can remember and would undoubtedly be sorely missed by my constituents should it close.

“I sincerely hope a buyer is found quickly to reassure the thousands of workers who will be fearing for their jobs right now.”