Debs duo join Green's Bhs sales offensive

Billionaire tycoon Philip Green has raised the curtain on ambitious plans to make his Bhs business a mightier force on the high street.

Top-level appointments, store revamps and product innovation will all help Green to 'move the game on' as he aims to increase sales per sq ft from£200 to£250 within three to five years.

Green has thrown himself into his existing businesses with renewed energy after his abortive£9 billion bid for Marks & Spencer, against which he now aims to compete aggressively.

Stephanie Chen, former design director at Debenhams, has joined Bhs as buying director for womenswear, and will create her own in-house design team. Steve Lawton, also from Debenhams, has been appointed menswear buying director.

They are the first such high-level appointments made since Green bought Bhs four years ago.

Working directly with the entrepreneur, the pair will develop Bhs's ranges and boost fashionability, while continuing to cater for the chain's traditional customers.

'These are very positive appointments,' said Green. 'We want to move the business on. It's a combination of not losing the heartland and being fashionable, rather than leading edge.'

Bhs is in the middle of a 'multi-million pound' revamp of its top 50 stores. Changes include improved in-store graphics and a new fascia.

The retailer should feel the benefit of the initiative as it enters the vital Christmas trading period, and a bolstered marketing campaign will include Bhs's first TV advertising for a decade.

Bhs has the best conversion rate of all the brands Green owns, and he is confident sales densities can be substantially increased on the back of the initiatives. He said: 'The shopper will see the value. We can take a lot more.'

In the year to the end of March last year, Bhs gener-ated an operating profit of£105.5 million on sales of£882.2 million.