Ailing high street chain BHS has warned 40 stores could close if it fails to renegotiate its rent bill.
The company, which has 164 stores nationally - with 10 across the North West, including Preston and Wigan - is urging landlords to agree a rent cut.
While the company’s store estate is located in favourable retail locations, a number of these leases are unsustainable, predicated on terms which were originally negotiated some decades agoKPMG
It wants them to approve a Company Voluntary Arrangement that splits stores into three categories based on commercial viability.
Under the CVA, 40 stores would pay a quarter of rent for a minimum of 10 months while bosses negotiate permanent reductions. Stores will only stay open where ‘substantial’ cuts are achieved.
A further 47 premises will stay open if rent is reduced to 75 per cent (21 stores) or 50 per cent of the full amount.
Some 77 premises will be retained at current rents, but paid monthly not quarterly.
A spokesman for accountants KPMG said they hoped to keep the number of closures to a minimum. Creditors will vote on the CVA on March 23.
Will Wright, restructuring partner at KPMG and proposed supervisor of the CVA, said they aimed to tackle the “onerous” rents across BHS’ UK portfolio.
He added: “For almost 90 years, BHS has been one of the most iconic brands on the UK high street, but in recent years has seen its profitability decline as it has sought to respond to changing customer behaviours, increased competition and the rise in omni-channel retailing.
“Today’s CVA proposals are one facet of a wider turnaround plan, and specifically tackle one of the business’ largest fixed costs, the onerous lease arrangements.
“While the company’s store estate is located in favourable retail locations, a number of these leases are unsustainable, predicated on terms which were originally negotiated some decades ago. With the support of its lenders, shareholders and landlords, the company will be able to reshape its debt and operational structure to a model more suited to today’s multi-channel retail environment. The company needs to secure at least 75 per cent creditor approval for these CVAs.”
Brian Green, restructuring partner at KPMG, added: “Importantly, none of these stores will close on day one, and suppliers will continue to be paid on time and in full.
“The landlords of a total of 77 of the most viable stores will be retained at current rents which will be paid monthly as opposed to quarterly for three years.”