Jobs threat as BHS faces collapse

The BHS store in the Grand Arcade hosting a fashion show back in 2013
The BHS store in the Grand Arcade hosting a fashion show back in 2013

Staff at Wigan’s branch of BHS face an anxious wait to discover what the future holds after the crisis-hit retail giant went into administration.

Widespread job losses look likely at the department store, which has a branch in the Grand Arcade Shopping Centre, as it faces financial collapse including a £570m pensions deficit.

The 88-year-old company has stressed stores are trading normally and attempts to find a buyer are under way.

The crisis is the biggest to engulf the high street since Woolworth’s went under in 2008 and the closure of the Wigan store would be the biggest blow to the Grand Arcade since it opened.

The shopping centre yesterday declined to comment on the situation.

BHS owner Dominic Chappell has spoken about the immediate future for the beleaguered firm, which was bought from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green’s empire Arcadia for just £1 last year and is believed to be more than £1.3bn in debt.

Mr Chappell told the Press Association: “No one is to blame. 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.”

Wigan town centre has faced a tough time this year with KFC closing its Standishgate store and a report saying Wigan had the third-highest rate of empty stores in Britain.

Wigan Council cabinet member for regeneration Coun David Molyneux said the situation was concerning and he hoped there would be good news to come.

Coun Molyneux said: “It is a very well-established department store in Wigan and an integral part of the Grand Arcade.

“I know people who have worked there for a number of years so I know the personal effect this can have. It’s a very unsettling time for everybody involved and I hope people retain their jobs.

“We want to see it survive and hopefully a buyer can be found and it will remain a part of the town centre.”

Union Usdaw called the move into administration “devastating news” for employers and urged the company to begin dialogue.

Coun Molyneux is up for election in Ince against Judith Atherton (Conservatives) and Stephen Winstanley (Ukip).