How do you even begin to express your feelings for a national institution that was asset-stripped and insultingly sold for just £1? My affinity with my local BHS store in Burton upon Trent is getting on for two decades, having bought from there, like many mums before me, my children's school uniforms and other clothing. The staff are like one big happy family. My daughter worked there from the age of 16 and continued to travel home from university at weekends and holidays to remain a part of 'the family'. I've been made to feel like that myself on every visit.
And that's due to the unequivocal support all the staff have received over the years from their 'Mother Hens', those in senior positions and those with many years service who have looked after their chicks until they were ready for university or pastures new. Women like these have been the pulsating blood that runs through stores up and down the country. Their devotion to staff and store is awe-inspiring. Frazzled and run off their feet at Christmas and sale times, my local staff still found time to laugh and cry together, share celebrations and heartaches together. The welfare of each other has always been paramount. Believe me, I know.
I remember when the store's refurbishment was nearing completion and due a visit from a senior BHS member. Staff turned up unannounced early that morning to help the store manager get to the finish line. They would have moved mountains for her, and they did. This is the kind of stuff you never get to see or hear about.
And their reward? Having merchandise thrown at them including, shoes no less, when the store is now no longer able to offer an exchange to shoppers. Maybe they should have been thrown in the direction of Mrs Green who undoubtedly is already swamped in designer clothes paid for, I'm sure, by the likes of me and countless others who have spent more money in BHS stores up and down the country than we care to remember.
Putting aside Mr Philip Green's contribution to the UK retail industry, I've unceremoniously carried out my own asset-stripping and stripped him of his title for, if he were not interested in having the foresight to invest in what could have become a strong renovated brand, he should have considered handing over the reins to someone who cared a damn about the company. I was secretly hoping Sir Richard Branson would come to the fore and put the British back into BHS but, business is business after all, and if it's not financially viable due to the humongous investment needed, then so be it. But to hand over the reins to someone who is more suited behind the wheel of a car is both incompetent and downright immoral. Mary Portas, where were you when we needed your expert gutsy guidance?
You have a lot to answer for Mr Green. Stand up, be counted and give back by digging deep into your pockets.
It's not you who will be visiting my local BHS having to face the despondency and betrayal in the eyes of some of the staff. Other more experienced members will hold them up by displaying the pride and strength they've always displayed. You have ripped the heart out of a company whose staff have devoted years and years of service to it. The 60 at the Burton outlet who will lose their jobs don't include the in-store brands, restaurant staff and delivery drivers who service the store, never mind the manufacturers or pensioners who will all be severely impacted by your actions.
Knowing the staff as I do, they will mark their years there in some poignant, positive way and I'm looking forward to all their stories and anecdotes that will be revealed once the doors finally close on this lovely store. Staff are, as usual, upholding the name of BHS and will walk out for the last time with their heads held high; after all, you can't keep good women (and men) down for long. Look no further Mary Portas for devoted, hard-working staff if ever you need them; for here, you will have the cream of the crop.
Burton (the furthest place from the sea by all accounts) sits on the River Trent and as its waters trickle out to wider seas, you can sit well in the knowledge Mr Green that you have well and truly sold us down the river.
Don't let the ghostly figures of redundant staff mist the seas as you cruise the ocean in your newest yacht. Sleep well in your bed, because as we all know, thousands of others won't be.
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