After attracting massive media coverage for all the wrong reasons BHS is about to reappear as a trading entity. The Al Mana Group is a Qatari holding company with diverse interests that include retailing and consumer brands. It has operated the BHS franchise in Qatar since 2000 and bought the international business, the website and customer database from the administrators. It also took on the bulk of the BHS management teams from the two divisions. The new BHS International is led by MD David Anderson, a veteran of the business and former M&S exec.
The online offer will kick off with an edited home range and will add clothing soon after. The offering will be an edited version of old BHS built around best sellers. Most of the key suppliers in both home and clothing have been retained, which is a significant vote of confidence in the new business. Management plan a subtle repositioning – targeting a slightly younger customer with better product, improved styling, better fabrics and lower or the same price points.
After the generally very bad treatment of staff from old BHS, it’s great to see new owners backing their belief in the brand by investing in a new incarnation of the business. But will it work? With knowledge from the inside track since 2000, Al Mana must know the brand inside out. The plan to focus solely on online for the UK is sensible and allows them to manage costs more tightly. My understanding is that the international business already performed reasonably well so there is a solid base to work from.
The UK market is entering the most turbulent, challenging moment in its history. A major determinant of success in this market will be how retailers deal with change – simply doing things in the old way wont work any more. Many are in denial and are already struggling. BHS International knows it has to focus only on those parts of old BHS that worked, and to edit and reposition the product offering. The market emerging will be tough but BHS has been able to choose the cards it holds going forward, and that will be a key advantage it can leverage.
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