A good PR strategy might have saved BHS from oblivion

The demise of BHS once again proves that household name recognition means nothing unless you are prepared to innovate and drive a distinct personality as a brand.

In the end, nobody really knew what BHS was for, writes Lauren Winter
In the end, nobody really knew what BHS was for, writes Lauren Winter
Online, print and broadcast news reports will once again be filled with nostalgia-laden clips of stores on 1950s high streets, and punters reminiscing about going in to buy school uniforms with their mums in a rerun of the Woolworths national outpouring of grief. 

But what does (did) BHS actually stand for in 21st century Britain? 

Its PR outreach seemed to be limited to product placement and highlighting a few "hidden treasures" without any real sense of what the brand had to offer modern families.

By clearly defining the direction of the company, and its target consumers, BHS could have created a real point of view on 'British homes' and driven conversations to match this. 

Debenhams has successfully carved out a niche for itself with newsworthy designer collaborations and concessions that keep it firmly in the fashion and homeware pages, as well as relevant to audiences to which it wouldn’t normally have access. 

BHS, with its much coveted real-world presence, could have even been as bold as to enter into the tween market. 

Using highly followed sellers and stylists from the shopper apps of today for shop floor takeovers could have been a real pushing point through its glass doors. 

It needed some pulling power, but evidently it seemed it had hung up its dancing shoes for good. 

Quite simply BHS had lost its way by not really being known for one thing, and all the areas where it used to succeed have long been stolen by someone else – from kidswear being a mainstay of the supermarket big shop, to homewares now being dominated by larger one-stop retailers. 

BHS could have stood for the best of Britain but it seemed to lack pride, outside and in, and that’s not very British. 

The secondary question arises from the impact on Sir Philip Green and his reputation as a high street supremo. 

Long under fire for his tax arrangements, he has always been able to defend his record of building brands and creating jobs across the country. 

As this story inevitably shifts to a human one focusing on the 11,000 employees facing redundancy and the reported £300m pension black hole, focus will move to the Arcadia chief’s role in the demise of this institution, and how his role (if any) will help to support Brits in this time of retail mourning.  

Lauren Winter is director of brand marketing at FleishmanHillard Fishburn 

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