Rivals set to win customers on back of BHS’ demise

Stephan Shakespeare
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BHS To Go Into Administration
Rival firms may see a boost from the demise of BHS (Source: Getty)

BHS has entered administration, confirming what I have previously written about in this column; its loyal customers have deserted it in recent years.

Although BHS will continue to trade while a buyer is sought, the retailer has been in trouble for some time as it failed to modernise its offering.

It has been losing market share to rivals for some time, but which competitors will benefit from its possible demise?

New analysis of YouGov Profiles data reveals people who shop at BHS are already more likely to be customers of Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Primark.

Almost half (49 per cent) of BHS current customers also shop at M&S while just over a quarter (27 per cent) use Debenhams and Primark.

This offers clues to why BHS has declined, and why others have prospered while it has struggled.

BHS has found itself in retail no-man’s land – unable to appeal to increasingly fashion-conscious older consumers while at the same time losing out to other retailers when it comes to price.

Some consumers have complained that BHS’ offering belongs to another age. It failed to adapt to the challenge posed by online retailers while its in-store feel was seen as out of date.

While a plurality (47 per cent) think the retailer should be saved, a sizable minority (37 per cent) say it should be left to disappear from the high street, in the same way Woolworth’s and Comet have in recent years.

Given its target audience, it is perhaps unsurprising that women are far more likely to want to save the store (by 51 per cent to 42 per cent), while younger consumers, perhaps turned off by its dated image, favour jettisoning the brand (40 per cent against 34 per cent).

The troubles at BHS are devastating to staff and disruptive to loyal customers. But the crisis at the company is a vivid illustration of how ruthless the retail world is, and highlights what happens when a brand fails to keep up with its consumers.

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