We all love a story with a happy ending, especially when good triumphs over bad, heroes overcome villains and twists and turns keep us on our toes. The story of British Home Stores, or BHS, is one of these stories.
The iconic British brand, established in 1928, succumbed to the challenge of physical and digital retailing earlier this year and gave up the ghost. With tired stores, confused product lines and jaded consumers, it lost itself along the way somewhere: it became a bit beige. In 2015 it suffered the indignity of being sold for £1, and all stores closed by the end of August this year. It was a sad story – the end of an era for a stalwart of the British high street, a comforting presence as other shops came and went.
Now it has risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes. Its sophisticated, engaging, elegant website is evocative of high end homeware retailers as it shakes off its naysayers and emerges as The British Home Store, a butterfly from a chrysalis, its clean, slick brand transformation complete.
For BHS, the clicks and mortar model just didn’t work. Shifting its focus from physical retailing to digital ecommerce is a smart decision. The store’s ecommerce masterminds have listened to recommendations from retail guru Mary Portas to focus purely on what they do well: providing a simple, contemporary collection of well-priced lighting and homewares. Gone are the wheel-shaped crisps (I know: I ate them) and the glitzy coasters. It’s goodbye to the ‘pile it high’ cheap china and the scented candles.
The British Home Store plans to deliver its sleek new product line with a great selection of shipping options including free delivery, next-day delivery and courier delivery. The mobile site is slick, its digital presence strong. If they package this with a responsive, omnichannel customer experience with the consumer at its centre, they are – I hope – onto a winner, and this will be one of the most creative and successful brand transformations the UK’s retail industry has ever seen.
To succeed in its transformation, a brand needs to incorporate its legacy as well as its future, staying true to its roots but embracing change. It should make the complex simple and focus its strategy. It must breathe new life into its identity without losing its direction. It needs to know – really know – its customers and prospects through precise, accurate and efficient data management. And it must excite, inspire and delight its audiences – customers, employees and influencers.
For a brand, the key to longevity is adaptability. It’s about being able to continuously reinvent itself to remain relevant. And it’s about being brave and pioneering – being an agent of change. Think Madonna, Take That, Kylie Minogue, David Beckham: these celebrities span decades of popular culture by reinventing themselves, creating their own brands with digital reach and engaging with new audiences.
Whilst I don’t think I’ve ever before mentioned David Beckham and BHS in the same paragraph – and probably never will again – there is no doubt that BHS, like Beckham, is bringing its fans on its journey, whilst remaining relevant to its next generation of supporters. I wish them every success.