BHS administration: Who has blood on their hands as yet another retailer falls into administration?
The loss of a UK retailing stalwart from our high streets is always a sad affair.
There is, of course, a sense of nostalgia as old photos of where we once shopped appear. And the human tragedy of those losing their livelihoods – in the case of BHS that’s 10,000 current employees, and thousands more who will be losing their pensions, built up over the decades.
But, as with the collapse of Blockbuster, Woolworths, Dolcis, Internacionale when we lament the disappearance of these businesses, the question lingering in the background is always was this a matter of a timely passing? Or does someone – the consumer, or more likely, the management – have blood on their hands?
For Blockbuster, as with Woolworths, the demise can be put down to a technical shift.
In the case of the former, we no longer needed to physically leave our homes to hire a film – we could download or stream them straight from broadcasters like Sky or Netflix. We could even, if we still wanted the physical item, buy DVDs online – sometimes for the price of a rental. It's hard to see how management could have done anything differently.
Woolworths was also killed off by a move online, as Amazon took over as our go-to place for everything from CDs (remember them?) to homeware to back-to-school items.
And then of course there is BHS.
When did you – truly and honestly – last enter one of their stores? Who has their customer been in recent years?
Sir Philip Green’s attempts to get a greater footfall by putting branches of Dorothy Perkins & Wallis into the stores may have looked good – but did those feet then fall into the mainline BHS space, and pick up any hangers?
The current state of the UK high street is a worrying one, with even Lord Wolfson of Next saying that times are as bad as they were back at the peak of the financial crisis.
People are still spending, but rather than the pre-recession splurges, it tends to be considered shops.
BHS may be a British institution, but we’re not obliged to shop at these places just out of a sense of loyalty, so the blame for today's news can hardly be laid at the feet of the consumer.
Is the blame to therefore be put at the boardroom door, and those who have been responsible for creating out-moded collections, drab interiors and uninspiring brand images?
BHS is cheap, and should therefore have thrived during tough times. But there are many value retailers with a cool image and marketing which clearly speaks to their audiences – you only have to consider the unstoppable rise of Primark to see how a well-executed budget retail can succeed.
It’s more likely the case that the tills stopped ringing because all the way back down the chain poor decisions were being made on how to keep the life blood pumping.
That’s where those bloody hands are today.