LONDON — The failed British retailer BHS has been born again as an online site for homewares and lighting under the Al Mana Group.
Al Mana acquired BHS.com, the international franchise business, and the BHS brand name earlier this year after the company was placed into administration, with 11,000 job losses.
The BHS collapse — one of the U.K.’s biggest retail failures for a decade — sparked a parliamentary investigation into its former owners; the hole in its pension fund, and the reasons behind Sir Philip Green’s sale of the business to the twice-bankrupt Dominic Chappell.
According to the new owners, BHS.com will open for business in the U.K. on Thursday, and over the coming weeks will add new ranges, including kitchen and dining ware, and clothing items, although it will have a smaller range of products than it did before.
The online platform will allow ordering with two clicks and promises to be mobile-friendly. Among the big problems with the old BHS was a failure to develop a viable omnichannel strategy and a host of large stores in need of renovation.
Al Mana also pointed out that the relaunched BHS will be headquartered in London, with 84 employees, most of whom had worked for the retailer’s international operations before it went into administration.
David Anderson, managing director of BHS International, the Al Mana-owned parent company, said BHS had a loyal customer base with around 1.2 million British shoppers, which means the new company will have, “a number of advantages over a typical start-up. We are nimble and efficient, but with a great brand, strong customer base and a proven and dedicated team,” he said.
The Al Mana Group operates in sectors including retail, automotive, real estate, media and technology. It operates franchises for brands including Zara, Mango, Armani Exchange, United Colors of Benetton and Reebok.
Two years ago, Green sold BHS for a nominal price to Chappell, a businessman with no retail experience. The store collapsed into administration last spring, with the loss of 11,000 jobs.
Some 22,000 pensions remain in question due to the 571-million-pound, or $755-million, hole in its pension fund, which widened under Green’s 15-year ownership.
Green has apologized publicly for his role in the BHS affair and has repeatedly said he is working with the U.K. Pensions Regulator on finding a solution.
Earlier this month Green said he has already handed over more than 70,000 documents to the regulator.
“I stated at the [parliamentary] hearing that it was my intention to try to find a solution, which is a voluntary one, to the BHS pensions, and that is still my aim,” Green said.
There are a series of other investigations taking place regarding the sale and collapse of BHS and the gap in the fund.