Less than a month after relaunching its UK website, BHS has revealed that it is launching in three new territories.
A few months ago this seemed an unlikely scenario as BHS administrators Duff & Phelps struggled to find buyers, ultimately failing to offload the UK business. But with Al Mana group, which also operates franchises for Benetton, Zara and a host of others, buying the international and online business, expansion is back on the agenda.
BHS this morning confirmed that it was launching in three new territories, across Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and that further expansion was likely.
BHS managing director David Anderson spoke to Retail Week about the expansion plans, and why he believes the retailer has the capacity to grow and grow.
How has the UK website performed since you relaunched?
We’ve had 850,000 visitors since the launch [on September 29] and are converting more and more sales as the site gets more product. The majority of orders are on mobile, which is great and our average order value is growing. Last week it was £66.25, up £1 on the week before.
You’re relaunching the fashion offering on Friday. How will you differentiate it in a tough fashion market?
We do already have 1.2m customers who have regularly shopped with us in the past. Because of how many visitors we’ve had to the site already, I’m confident that figure will grow and grow as we expand our range.
We are working with designers and suppliers on how to really grow men’s and children’s wear. We want to make sure we are getting the style absolutely right for customers. The clothing on there is definitely targeting the 35-year-old plus customer.
And we are not going to go down that heavy discounting route. There will be offers from time to time. We are looking for first price, right price. I want customer to feel that they’re getting value for money.
What’s the rationale behind your current expansion plan?
One is that of the three countries we’re going into, two are emerging markets with huge populations and growing middle classes. They see BHS as suiting their market very well and, seeing the heritage of the brand, they are attracted to that and think it would be popular in the market.
We have had quite a few more potential partners approach us. They look at who owns us now and they’ve already put a vast amount of money into the business and we intend to grow the business and focus solely on those international markets. This time our sole focus is international and online. They believe they will get an iconic brand and they have seen our merchandise and have been very enthused by that.
How many partners are you in discussions with?
We are in negotiations with quite a few potential partners. We have very strict due diligence to make sure we are choosing the right partners who will have the same values as us. We want to know that once we put BHS into those countries, our values will carry on.
It isn’t just on those continents – we are discussing another continent as well where people have approached us since we’ve been under new ownership because they have seen the owners are putting money in and investing in the business’s foundations. We have been very happy that people have been approaching us but it is important that our values are maintained by whatever partner we work with.
The majority of partners have been with us for a long time, and have stuck with us through what’s happened. I think that’s really a testament to our relationships with them.
Would you rule out a return to the British high street?
I’ve been in retail for over 35 years and it changes constantly. You have to try and be ahead of those changes. I wouldn’t rule anything out including one day, possibly, a return to the British high street. But at the moment that is not the plan.
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