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The store that defeated Mr Retail

    Philip Green with model Kate Moss. The entrepreneur has struggled to make a success of ailing BHS
    Philip Green with model Kate Moss. The entrepreneur has struggled to make a success of ailing BHS

    More than a decade has passed since retailing entrepreneur Sir Philip Green made the boldest move of his career in the shape of a £9.1 billion bid for Marks & Spencer, financed by the Bank of Scotland.

    Mr Green reckoned he had the fashion knowledge to turn around the nation's favourite store chain but was seen off the field of battle by regiments of loyal private investors. Since the summer of 2004 M&S has had two chief executives and invested £5 billion of capital in the business and it has still failed to turn around its struggling womenswear.

    So would the Carmel College educated Green have done any better?

    Judging from the evidence of his stewardship of BHS, the former British Home Stores, and this week's news that the chain is available for sale, the answer must be no.

    Mr Green has made an enormous success of his other high street acquisition Arcadia, owner of Topshop, Wallis and Ms Selfridge. But he has found it enormously difficult to turn around BHS with a 170-odd stores in the UK.

    BHS was often regarded as M&S's poor relation, trailing behind it in terms of quality and innovation. Historically it was a popular venue for its lighting ranges, women's hats and in-store cafes. But this eclectic mix could not deliver enough turnover on its own.

    Under Philip's Green's ownership it has tried all manner of approaches to improve performance. After he merged BHS into his Arcadia group in 2009 I remember him proudly showing me his new collections as he sought to upgrade BHS's home furnishings markets with new designs for sofas, kitchen tables and garden furniture.

    The items were bright, modern and moderately priced but never paid off.

    The retail maven also experimented with a "franchise" approach placing boutiques, selling his fashion brands, into BHS shops in the belief that it might bring in the younger customers. That did not seem to work either.

    As time has passed he has focused ever more effort on Topshop and its formula of fast and good quality fashion. He has taken Topshop to New York, opened franchises in US stores, and is currently acquiring sites in many of the big cities.

    Increasingly, he is to be seen featuring at Topshop fashion shows with model and designer Kate Moss.

    BHS has looked increasingly burdensome.

    Turning traditional stores like BHS around is tricky and Mr Green has tried everything, including food. But it is a long haul.

    By publicly hinting he wants to sell BHS he has the buyers queuing up, with private equity, the most likely candidates. Newcomers to Britain's high streets, such as no frills retailers Aldi or Poundland, might fancy their chances.

    Simplifying his interests, by ditching BHS and focusing on Topshop, must seem like a no-brainer.

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