According to a recent report by the Local Data Company (LDC), a quarter of the former BHS stores in the UK are still empty, four years after the retailer’s collapse in 2016. The main obstacle in finding new tenants for these locations is their large size, especially considering the current economic climate. Out of the 160 former BHS stores, less than half have been occupied again, while another twenty-five percent have either been demolished or repurposed for other uses.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the situation for renting out retail properties, especially larger spaces like those previously occupied by BHS. Lucy Stainton, from the LDC, highlights that the pandemic has brought two major challenges to the table: the decreased demand for new retail spaces as many retailers abandon their expansion plans, and the increased supply of large units as more department stores, including well-known brands like John Lewis and Debenhams, announce closures.

Moreover, the report reveals an alarming trend of declining interest in these former BHS sites in the years following the collapse of the retailer. Although there was relatively high demand during the first year, the interest has significantly dropped each subsequent year. However, there are still retailers willing to take on the challenge of operating in large spaces. Notably, Primark, a rapidly growing chain, has secured more than a fifth of the reoccupied BHS stores. Additionally, Next, which is also expanding its retail presence in new categories, has taken over four stores. Other occupants include H&M, Poundland, and B&M.

Looking ahead, it is expected that more former BHS locations will be repurposed due to the difficult retail environment caused by the pandemic. The combination of reduced demand and increased supply of large units makes it increasingly challenging to find retail tenants for these spaces. The impact of the pandemic on the high street is evident, and the struggles faced by former BHS stores reflect the broader challenges experienced by retailers throughout the UK.

Useful links:
1. BBC: Former BHS stores still empty four years after retailer’s collapse
2. Retail Gazette: Former BHS workers to sue as new report reveals collapse could have been avoided