End of an era as Princes Street’s BHS closes doors

Mrs M Pearson from Bathgate is the first customer through the door as the Princes Street BHS opens in 1967. Picture: Joe Steele
Mrs M Pearson from Bathgate is the first customer through the door as the Princes Street BHS opens in 1967. Picture: Joe Steele
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THE BHS store on Princes Street will close for good tomorrow after the retail giant went bust.

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The company’s three other Lothian branches – at Cameron Toll, Ocean Terminal and The Centre in Livingston – all shut on Saturday.

Confirmation of the closures comes after the chain collapsed earlier this year, causing the loss of hundreds of jobs across Scotland.

Local business leaders have called on the city council and Edinburgh’s economic development agencies to ensure store workers receive as much support as possible.

Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute, said: “We have to consider the local staff in this context.

“Hopefully most of them will be able to find alternative roles. Retail is not an easy place to be right now.

“The building will remain and it will find a new use – it is in a prime location – but I think the passing of a once-proud brand is pretty sad.

“Most of those above a certain age will remember BHS with fondness. I can recollect as a child that I would be taken into BHS stores to get school uniforms – high quality, affordable clothing.

“It’s a shame that one of these big names is passing but it’s not an infrequent occurrence in the modern world.”

It emerged last week that the owners of the Princes Street store and the linked area in neighbouring Rose Street had drawn up £50 million blueprints to turn the site into two new shops, a hotel and a rooftop restaurant.

BHS’s existing premises were purpose-built in the 1960s and Category B-listed by Historic Scotland in 2008 because they were among the first “panel buildings” – so-called because of a group of city planners who were pursuing proposals to create a continuous first-floor walkway along the length of Princes Street.

The only surviving signs of the project are a few properties with balconies intended to become part of the walkway.

Closure of all four BHS stores also follows publication of a damning report into the firm’s ownership under retail billionaire Sir Philip Green.

The tycoon was branded the “unacceptable face of capitalism” after a parliamentary inquiry found he systematically extracted huge sums from the group while leaving its pension fund in deficit.

Political figures in the Capital admitted that the loss of BHS was a blow.

But they said the local economy was fundamentally strong and expressed confidence that former staff would find employment opportunities elsewhere in Edinburgh.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, SNP member for the city centre, said: “BHS has been a fixture on the high street of most major town centres in the UK for many years and it’s a shame to see it go. Despite the uncertainty, the economic climate in Edinburgh seems to remain quite buoyant, and I would hope that people can find work in other parts of the city.

“The BHS store is in a very desirable location and I would be surprised if the owners do not receive a number of expressions of interest.”