Bhs is working on improving its in-store act currently and it will certainly be interesting to see what the outcome is. Perhaps the future for this high street hardy perennial is already on view: in Oxford Street.

Bhs is working on improving its in-store act currently and it will certainly be interesting to see what the outcome is. And perhaps, to an extent, the future for this high street hardy perennial is already on view: in Oxford Street.

Wander into the flagship store and spend a little time looking around. Two things are apparent. The first is that this does not look like a Bhs of old. In place of the somewhat tired looking rails and rather fusty ambiance, is a store in which the space has been broken down, departments are well defined and yes, the graphics package looks like someone’s thought it through carefully.

And secondly, from a visual merchandising perspective it’s also pretty respectable. At the entrance to the men’s department, for instance, there are three male mannequins all sporting knitwear and arranged in a way that is both easy on the eye and likely to encourage you to make your way into the area.

All in all then, this is a Bhs, but not as we know it. Only one slight niggle: the stock. There is a sense that this store has the same problem that perhaps C&A faced at the tail end of the 1990s. The store wasn’t that bad when compared with much of what was being done at the lower end of the market, it’s just that the merchandise was.

And here you have to pause for a moment and consider what Bhs is for. In days gone by, a trip to the “Home Stores” meant buying sensible clothing at honest prices, or at least something of the kind.

Today it just means value: for which read cheap. And while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, if it’s cheap you want, then the majority of shoppers are heading for the Primark at the other end of the strip. The other point is that much of the stock is aimed at what might, in a kindly moment, be described as a mature market. Practically this means that the hair colour you are likely to encounter in Bhs Oxford Street, and elsewhere, is more likely to be grey than anything else and the problem with grey is that it is a signal of an aging demographic. Nothing wrong with this either, except that the grey pound wants to be young.

Put another way, Bhs in Oxford Street is a good stab at making a low price store environment acceptable to a younger audience, but the buy still has some way to go. About four out of ten really.

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