Many people will be familiar with the name British Home Stores, or BHS, as the UK store has a long history in Britain, as it was founded early in the 20th century and became a staple supplier of clothing and household goods on the high street for many years.
The original store was founded in 1928 in London by a group of American entrepreneurs who wanted to model their new store on Woolworths, but did not want to appear to be in direct competition. Therefore, they started off by setting all goods at a price of one shilling and then expanded to include cafes and grocery items, and the store survived the war years and began to flourish.
The chain expanded to the new indoor shopping arcades that sprang up in most towns and cities and BHS then went into partnership with Sainsbury’s to develop hypermarkets which Sainbury’s later took full control of. During the 1980’s after a slump in profits, the management decided to revamp some of the stores and rationalised stock to include primarily top items that were selling well. It closed the Dublin branch and began a number of franchises in different parts of the world such as Europe and the Middle East. In addition the store merged with Mothercare, Habitat and Storehouse plc.
After a number of re-branding exercises, the chain went on to have 163 UK stores and 74 international branches that ranged over 18 different territories. BHS was bought by Sir Philip Green in 2000 and was amalgamated into his Arcadia group of companies which also included Topshop, Burton and Wallis amongst other big names, and this enabled BHS to become the UK’s second largest supplier of clothes after Marks and Spencer.
The BHS name was particularly synonymous with clothing for women, men and children and was a key supplier of standard school uniform items for children. However, after Green’s takeover the store offered clothing names such as Etam, Tammy and Amelie May that raised it’s profile with younger customers and increased the popularity of BHS with girls who identified with these brand names as it began to be seen as more fashionable. Women’s clothing was consistently popular including lingerie, coats, dresses, shoes and other items of both formal and leisure wear, and items were perceived as good quality and from a trusted brand.
As with many other stores that are seen as national treasures such as Woolworths and Marks and Spencer, many of the UK public were sad to see this long standing member of the high street close down after so many years. However, the brand is remembered particularly for the cross-section of clothing that it provided to many loyal customers, particularly women and girls across all generations.