Blackpool’s BHS site a ‘real opportunity’

Blackpool's BHS store in Church Street

Blackpool's BHS store in Church Street

The loss of Blackpool’s BHS store is a tragedy for the staff and a blow for the high street, a town centre leader has said.

But the closure of the department store could present an opportunity for the resort to gain another big name, said Blackpool Business Improvement District manager Eileen Ormand.

The Church Street store is among 163 due to close after administrators failed to find a buyer for the BHS company.

The Blackpool store is continuing to trade but the parent company’s failure has meant around 11,000 jobs nationally are to be lost.

Eileen Ormand said: “It is absolutely tragic. You have to feel for the staff.

“On the positive side, they are all very well trained staff with a lot of experience of the retail world so they should all be able to walk into retail jobs where they are available.

“I would imagine retailers with vacancies would be only too glad to take them on.

“BHS has been a household name all over the country for so many years so its closure will be a blow to the high street.

“In Blackpool though, there are not an awful lot of such big units available in the right places so I would imagine some will be looking closely at it. It is a real opportunity.

“Hopefully it will not remain vacant long. If you look at the big chains coming to Blackpool in recent months, Las Iguanas, Mr Basrai’s, Nandos, there is a lot of activity in the food sector, so I could also see one of the names we have not already got move into a big building like that.”

Work has already begun to help the BHS staff affected find new jobs.

Coun Mark Smith, cabinet member for business and economic development for Blackpool Council, said the council would be looking to help.

He said: “I have been talking to Positive Steps,the council’s initiative to support people into employment, about how we can support staff to help them find other employment.

“We will do what we can and will work with other agencies including the Job Centre and training providers.”

The Government has ordered its Job Centre rapid response teams to look into helping BHS staff.

Anna Soubry, Small Business Minister said: “Already, teams are centrally tracking vacancies in the retail sector and will make sure BHS branches are aware of any vacancies in their area.

“Jobcentre Plus also stands ready to deploy its Rapid Response Service in acknowledgment of the scale of the job losses.”

BHS fell into administration in April, leaving behind a £571m pensions black hole and sparking an investigation.