Shop workers face anxious wait for information after BHS collapse

BHS in  Waterloo Square, South Shields.
BHS in Waterloo Square, South Shields.

South Tyneside shop staff face an anxious wait after the failure of one of Britain’s best-known High Street names.

BHS collapsed into administration yesterday, putting 11,000 jobs and up to 164 stores at risk, including its outlet in Waterloo Square, South Shields.

It is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths went bust in 2008.

Administrators Duff & Phelps said talks to find a buyer over the weekend had failed, adding: “In addition, property sales have not materialised as expected in both number and value.

“Consequently, as a result of a lower-than-expected cash balance, the group is very unlikely to meet all contractual payments.

“The directors, therefore, have no alternative but to put the group into administration to protect it for all creditors.”

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “It would be a sad day for South Tyneside if the BHS store was to close.

“However, it is important to note this is a national issue and it would be a blow for many town and city centres across the country.

“We hope the administrators can find a positive solution for the future of the stores and for all those staff affected.”

BHS will continue to trade as usual while potential buyers are sought.

The firm has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million, which proved a major stumbling block in the rescue talks.

NUFC owner Mick Ashley’s Sports Direct company is understood to be interested in acquiring some stores, but will only do so if it does not have to take on any pension liabilities.

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw said taxpayers should not be left to pick up the pensions bill.

General secretary John Hannett said: “The Government needs to intervene now to protect taxpayers from picking up the bill for redundancy payments and safeguarding the Pension Protection Fund.”

It is thought other retailers may buy a slimmed-down version of the business or some stores.