By Sarah Townsend
Al Mana Group acquired BHS’ online, international operations in June
Qatar’s Al Mana Group plans to relaunch the website of struggling retailer BHS this week, as part of plans to revive the brand following its takeover in June.
Before the deal this summer, the Doha-based conglomerate already had a franchise deal to operate some of BHS’s overseas stores.
It bought the rights to the BHS website and 72 international stores two months after the British clothing and homewear chain collapsed in April.
The online venture is headed up by former BHS executive David Anderson, who is now managing director at BHS International. It will be based in London and have 84 employees, most of them BHS workers, the company has said.
The new website, Bhs.com, goes live on Thursday, initially selling lighting and home furnishings. Its kitchen, dining and clothing ranges are set to go on sale next month.
According to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, Anderson said he is convinced the brand can succeed as an online retailer, and that the new venture “has nothing to do with the old owners”.
“So much has been said about what has gone on,” he was quoted as saying. “We’ve just got to look ahead and face the future.”
The collapse of BHS affected 11,000 jobs and 22,000 pensions when the retailer’s stores closed earlier this year, and prompted a lengthy parliamentary inquiry.
Anderson said BHS had an online customer base of about 1.2 million shoppers in the UK before it went into administration and that only a “minute” number opted to close their accounts afterwards, the FT reported.
He also claimed the website has agreed deals with former BHS suppliers, and that three-quarters of the old website’s most popular items will be available. “We have analysed what they were buying and what they weren’t,” he was quoted as saying.
It is hoped the website will sell 1,500 clothing lines and 1,500 homeware lines by next summer – but it will have fewer offerings than before and avoid “blanket promotions”.
“I would like to be the number one department store of choice online for clothing and homeware,” Anderson said.
Al Mana Group manages franchises of retailers including Zara, Mango and Benetton in the Middle East.
Wissam Al Mana, who heads up the group’s retail division, is married to singer Janet Jackson.