BHS stores in Lewisham Shopping Centre and Croydon Whitgift Centre could face closure following a decision to put the company into legal administration.
A buyer is being sought for the high street retailer under the administration process, whereby independent accountants will try to save as much of the operation as they can.
However, staff and local residents are concerned about the possible loss of a high street institution – and scores of jobs.
One BHS worker from Lewisham told ELL: “We don’t know [what’s happening] yet, nothing has been confirmed. There are a lot of people working here; there are a lot of jobs on the line.
“I think we’re all putting on a brave face at the moment, but we are really worried deep down – if we lose our job then that’s it. It’s a lovely job, a lovely company so there’s a lot at stake.”
Yesterday (April 25), the company announced it had been taken into administration following unsuccessful negotiations to find a buyer at the weekend. Administrators Duff and Phelps said in a statement that the decision was taken to “protect it for all creditors”, adding: “The group will continue to trade as usual whilst the administrators seek to sell it as a going concern.”
Blackheath residents Henry Jackson, 88, and wife Joy, 84, shop at BHS regularly. Mr Jackson said: “It would be a great shame if it closed. We would miss it.”
Shopper, Nickiesha Barnett, 30, said: “It would be a shame to lose it; it’s been here for years. I buy my bedding from here so I would be really upset.”
Lewisham resident, Brian Blundell, 79, said: “If BHS closed I wouldn’t miss it a great deal… They’ve been living on a knife-edge for some years. When they go into administration, some people think it will come out, but when have you ever known a big company like this to come out of administration?”
John Hannett, General Secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, said: “This is devastating news for the employees of BHS and we urge the company to change their attitude to trade unions and begin a dialogue with us at this difficult and worrying time.”
He also urged the government to safeguard the Pension Protection Fund, which pays compensation to eligible workers when their employer closes because of insolvency.
Sir Philip Green, the former owner of BHS, has been called to Parliament and will be questioned by MPs over his running of the business before he sold it in 2015.
Dominic Chappell, the current owner bought the retail chain from Green in 2015 for £1. He said in a statement that he would continue to work with the administrators to “find a solution post the administration”.
“No-one is to blame” he added. “It was a combination of bad trading and not being able to raise enough money from the property portfolio.”