BHS was a landmark chain of retail department stores that was a fixture on British high streets for nearly 80 years. After the retailer fell into administration in 2016 all 16 BHS stores in Scotland closed, leaving significant vacancies across high streets and placing many people out of work.
The demise of the former retail stalwart has been highly documented, not least because of the size of the pension deficit that existed when the retailer went into liquidation. However, while the shockwaves felt across the British retail market from the fall of BHS continue to play out, there are glimmers of hope in Scotland as half of the former BHS stores have now been re-let and new tenants add vibrancy to the high street.
At the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow, the former BHS store is subject to a £35 million redevelopment, incorporating a new nine-screen Vue multiplex cinema on the first floor alongside eight new restaurant units (including Smashburger), due to open in summer 2020. The ground floor remains available and it’s anticipated the development will revitalise this area of the city and provide a catalyst for further inward investment as a result of increased footfall particularly in the evenings.
In Edinburgh the former BHS store on Princes Street is subject to a £20 million redevelopment. The upper levels have been pre-let to Premier Inn, which will open a new 137-bed hotel. A 40,000 sq ft unit is available at ground and first-floor level suitable for retail or other use, subject to planning. Elsewhere in the city, at Cameron Toll, Aldi acquired the entire 25,000 sq ft store in February 2017.
Outside Scotland’s main cities, TJ Hughes now occupies former BHS stores in Clydebank, East Kilbride and Wellgate Shopping Centre in Dundee, all on new 15-year leases from 2018, as the British discount department store continues its expansion north of the border. Meanwhile in Livingston H&M has taken the majority of the former BHS unit within the centre.
When BHS closed it left a significant hole on the high street and many questioned how these large, single units would re-let in light of changing shopping habits. Change of use and reconfiguration have been key to the re-letting of Scotland’s BHS stores. It doesn’t stop at hotels and cinemas: there’s a strong argument for residential, healthcare, logistics and office use as well.
The future of the high street is mixed use, creating vibrant destinations that people want to visit at all times of the week. The large footprint left behind by BHS is creating opportunities for a greater blend of uses and by introducing more homes, more workspace and more leisure and entertainment the high street will become a bustling community once more.