BHS plans expansion under new ownership

Qatar’s Al Mana Group is in final discussions with three new franchise partners to open BHS stores in 10 countries.

BHS has a three-year plan to expand its brand. Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images
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British Home Stores (BHS) under its new Qatari ownership has revealed a three-year plan to grow the brand, opening up new stores across the region and in Russia and Africa.

Qatar’s Al Mana Group is in final discussions with three new franchise partners to open stores in 10 countries.

The group is also optimistic about finding a new franchise partner for Dubai and the Northern Emirates after the Al Maya Group terminated its operations closing all five of its BHS stores, including in Mall of Emirates, by the end of the year.

The closure of the Al Maya stores was decided before the collapse of BHS in the UK.

BHS went into administration in the UK in April of this year, with the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Still, the new management has not ruled out a return to the British high street.

“BHS is a very British aspirational brand that is loved in many parts of the world,” said David Anderson, chief executive of BHS. “When the chain went into administration the 61 outlets in 14 different countries were profitable and the Al Mana Group, along with our franchise partners, are willing to invest in the brand. The Al Mana Group have a global reach, so we are able to take the brand where we see opportunity, we may well return to the UK. Our stores in Abu Dhabi and Qatar are very popular, so we are likely to see more Middle Eastern expansion.”

The retail sector has faced challenging conditions across the globe and throughout the region, where a low oil price and currency fluctuations have hit consumer spending.

“Retail is challenging, which is why you need a strong brand,” said Mr Anderson. “Nearly all our suppliers, over 100, have signed back up with us and they have been signed specifically for the international markets. Bricks and mortar isn’t performing well in the UK, but there are economies across the world that are stronger than others. We have just opened a logistics hub in Dubai to facilitate supplying our international stores which shortens our supply line by four to six weeks. I’m expecting strong growth.”

Because BHS is not bound to brands and other suppliers, selling its own branded goods places it in a stronger position than stores that cannot control, inventory, price and logistics.

“The most profitable stores are those that carry their own brands,” said David Macadam chief executive of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres. “While no one is insulated from the retail climate presently, BHS is a value chain and in a challenging environment it has an opportunity to prosper. Its biggest challenge will be securing good real estate at good rental rates. There is definitely room for another department store to anchor malls.”

Last week British lawmakers backed plans to strip the billionaire Philip Green, a former owner of BHS, of his knighthood over the collapse of the department store chain.

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