11,000 jobs at risk as BHS files for administration

Beleaguered high street department chain BHS, one of the giants of the high street for almost 100 years, has filed for administration threatening almost 11,000 jobs.

Talks about a financing deal for high street chain Bhs have failed. Picture: Dan Phillips

The collapse is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths folded in 2008 with the loss of around 30,000 jobs.

BHS has 164 stores UK-wide, including 16 retail outlets in Scotland with approximately 800 workers.

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The company’s owner Dominic Chappell said “no-one was to blame” for the situation and that he was working with the administrators to “find a solution post the administration.”

In a statement, administrators Duff & Phelps said the group would continue to “trade as usual” until a buyer is found.

“The group (BHS) 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.”

Citing reasons for the collapse, Mr Chappell said: “It was a combination of bad trading and not being able to raise enough money from the property portfolio. In the end, we just couldn’t reach an agreement with Arcadia over pensions.”

BHS was bought last year by consortium Retail Acquisitions, headed by Mr Chappell, for £1 from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, the owner of the Arcadia retail empire.

BHS has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million, which proved a major stumbling block in last-ditch rescue talks over the weekend.

Rival retailer Sports Direct is understood to want to take on some of the stores, but only if it does not have to take on its pension deficit.

The pensions watchdog, the Pensions Regulator has said it has launched a probe into the arrangements to make sure the retailer can meet as much of its pensions obligations as possible and to ensure the owners of BHS are not deliberately attempting to avoid their obligations, leaving it to the Pension Protection Fund to pick up their pension liabilities.

Billionaire Sir Philip is reported to have offered £80 million towards BHS pensions, though the regulator could still pursue further payment.

Pensions Regulator is currently in negotiations with previous owner Sir Philip over plugging the pensions hole.

However, a spokesman for Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, said taxpayers should not be left to pick up the pension bill John Hannett, the union’s general secretary, said: ““We don’t want to see BHS staff sent to the back of the queue of creditors.”