Mansfield BHS set for closure but no takers for building yet

BHS Westgate, Mansfield.
BHS Westgate, Mansfield.

Mansfield town centre will soon see another well-known face disappear from its streets as BHS has announced the closure of the store.

Staff at the shop will be among 8,000 employees country-wide facing 
redundancy as the chain’s administrators failed to agree a sale.

And with many commentators blaming the continuing closure of big high-street names on the rapid growth of online shopping, the continuing decline of our high street seems like a forgone conclusion at times.

Now is the time retailers and shoppers look to the council and other retail support organisations such as Mansfield Business Improvement District (BID) to find a way forward and keep our town centre alive.

Coun Dave Saunders, member for regeneration at Mansfield District Council, said the loss of BHS was a sad day for everyone.

He added: “It is very early days but we have to get pro-active and see how we can get someone in the property.

“But this is a big unit we are talking about and it is a question of finding the right person.

“We do have one or two ideas but at this stage we are trying to understand the nature of the lease on the building.”

“It may be that there is another big retailer looking for a big premises.

Coun Dave Saunders said this had always been an important store for Westgate but in many ways it was a sign of the times.

He added: “If you go into Primark that place is packed out because there are so many offers. We live in a throw-away society.

“And online shopping has changed people’s buying habits.”

Indeed, it seems that as the digital age pushes more and more people online for their shopping the smart town planners are using digital technology to bring them back.

One such example is the Rewarding Visits scheme, whereby shoppers use a loyalty system - either as an actual card or a smartphone app - to receive rewards and discounts at participating shops in the town centre.

After attracting funding worth £250,000 Mansfield BID will be implementing the system within the coming months.

Once in place the town centre will see terminals stationed at various points in the town centre where shoppers can receive alerts to offers at various retailers.

David Wilson, temporary BID manager, said: “We are just one of four town centres to be chosen for this funding and are really pleased.

“We think this will give people a reason to come into the town centre.

“Overall the market is picking up. Footfall is up by 0.5% during the year to March.

“We do not what we do not know but the BHS site is a prime location and we will do everything we can - we have attracted some big players over the years.”

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is always sad to see the demise of an iconic national brand such as BHS and the impacts of its collapse will be felt across the Mansfield and Ashfield area.

“A number of local people who worked there have lost their jobs and will need to be supported to finding alternative employment as quickly as possible.

“Last month also saw Courtaulds Textiles, which had many local links, fall into administration, in part because of its exposure to supply chain contracts with BHS.

“BHS had a significant high street presence in Mansfield and its collapse will leave a big hole to fill.

A huge amount of good work has gone into redeveloping and regenerating Mansfield town centre and improving its overall retail offering through initiatives like the Mansfield Business Improvement District and it is hoped that suitable new tenants for its premises can be secured quickly and the store can be put back to good use.”