Monday, March 23, 2015

News: Uncertainty at Rotherham retailers

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The Rotherham stores of national retailers, BHS and WHSmith are under threat of closure.

BHS Group Ltd was acquired by Retail Acquisitions Ltd earlier this month from the Acardia group. The department store operates some 171 outlets in the UK and was acquired by Sir Philip Green's Arcadia in May 2000.

An article in leading property magazine, Property Week, created uncertainty last week when it reported on a "secret" list of 52 stores being considered for disposal. The list included BHS stores at Parkgate Shopping in Rotherham and at Meadowhall in Sheffield. The report indicated that the business was keen to sell the leases of the stores in less profitable locations.

The publication was subsequently forced to publish an apology, stating that Retail Acquisitions had informed them that they have no intention of selling a large proportion of its stores, as was reported, and that the list obtained is not a list of sites primed for sale.

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A spokesman for Retail Acquisitions told Property Week: "We categorically deny that 52 stores will be closed, as has been reported. As with any new owner, Retail Acquisitions, together with BHS management, is looking at options for the property portfolio and its structure. Property consultants have been appointed, but this does not mean that any leases under review will be sold, and certainly does not mean that store closure is the only option.

"Options could also include sub-letting under-utilised space or renegotiating payment terms. In addition, BHS management is exploring opening new stores in the right locations."

BHS lost £45m last year and has a reported pension deficit of £100m. Loss-making stores in Canterbury, Cardiff, Aylesford, Bath and Thanet have been closed over the last 18 months and prior to the latest takeover, the decision was made to close the Oxford and Fosse Park stores.

Meanwhile at Parkgate Shopping, which is currently 100% let, it looks as if the WHSmith store will close next month. The lease of the unit has been on the market for a number of years as a confidential disposal and last year, plans were approved for a new mezzanine level that would take unit 4a to 1,210 sq m.

Staff have been informed that the store will close on April 15.

Parkgate Shopping, which is one of the largest retail parks in the UK, home to over 40 shops and attracts over nine million visitors a year, has reportedly been put up for sale.

Plans are also being progressed for an external works program to enhance the 14 hectare site. This includes resurfacing the 2,000 space car park area, improvements to the traffic flow, new street furniture and refreshed CCTV, a small "customer service pod" building and two new play areas.

Parkgate Shopping website

Images: Smith Price

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