As BHS.com goes under is the real problem now brand death rather than technology?

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It’s been a week of desperation in the world of department stores, with online-only retailer BHS.com finally closing its doors, almost two years to the day after its multichannel parent BHS went into administration.

The Qatar-based Al Mana Group, which owned the online BHS said this week that it had decided to focus its resources on its stores-based businesses following a strategic review. Those include the BHS International franchise business.

As a result, BHS.com will shut its website on Wednesday 27 June, making final deliveries to customers on Wednesday 5 July 5The closure puts 18 jobs at risk, although the company said in a statement that it was “in late stage negotiations with several new partners”.

“The 18 members of our BHS.com team, along with all suppliers, will be treated fairly and equitably as the website is closed down. We’d like to thank our team, suppliers and our customers for all their support over the past 20 months.”

– BHS Statement

BHS.com was launched in September 2016 after its parent business and once-proud high street name BHS went under. BHS.com rose from the ashes of BHS with a staff of 84 and was confident that shedding its costly high street presence but maintaining its well-known brand would stand it in good stead as an agile online only retailer.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Having been one of the first casualties of the high street’s collapse, it now looks to also be showcasing that old, well-known brands count for nowt unless they move with the times. Much the same thing happened to Woolworths – a contemporary of BHS, set up in 1928 – in 2008 on the high street and then online in 2009.

Many other strong department store and retail brand names will be watching with pain as BHS collapses as it seems to prove that the model of going purely and leveraging a well known brand doesn’t seem to work.

So what is going on here? Have the old brands simply run out of kudos as well as ideas? It would seem that, while it is easy to suggest that high street retailers and department stores aren’t moving with the times with in-store technology and joining the dots of online, in-store and mobile, they face another problem: brand death.

On paper, BHS.com should have worked: strong brand but reinvented as an agile pure play that could compete on service and price thanks to much reduced overheads. But it had a poor website, had poor logistics structures and above all it was a tired and possibly dead brand.
This leaves much of the high street retail world in turmoil: if brand death is behind these recent high street issues then technology isn’t going to save the day.

Image: Fotolia

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