Administrators for collapsed retailer BHS have provisionally extended closing date of its 57 remaining stores August 28, giving thousands of employees a stay of execution.
The administrators, Duff & Phelps and FRP Advisory, had initially set a deadline of August 20.
They have already overseen 106 closures in recent weeks, with the latest being BHS’s flagship Oxford Street store last weekend.
The remaining 57 stores will remain open until stock has run out as the administrators look to maximise returns, with a possibility the deadline could also be pushed further.
Workers will continue to be paid until the remaining stores close, after which they will all be made redundant.
David Gill, of shop workers’ union Usdaw, said: “The remaining BHS staff are going through the difficult and heart-breaking task of dismantling stores that many of them have been in for most of their working lives.
“Wherever the blame lies for the demise of this once-great British retailer, it certainly is not with the staff who are paying a high price for corporate decisions that have led us to where we are today.”
The department store chain’s collapse in April placed 11,000 jobs and 22,000 pensions in jeopardy and led to a high-profile parliamentary inquiry that could lead to its former owners – Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell – facing further criminal investigations.
Green owned BHS for 15 years before controversially selling it to Chappell, a serial bankrupt with no retail experience, for £1 in 2015.
Green also landed in hot water after it was revealed he took more than £400 million in dividends from BHS, leaving it with a £571 million pension black hole.
Labour MP Frank Field, who co-led the parliamentary inquiry, has asked the Serious Fraud Office to launch a formal investigation into the Green and Chappell to determine if any criminal wrongdoing occurred.
“Sir Philip Green needs to honour the two promises he made to BHS staff and pensioners after the company went into administration,” Gill said.
“Firstly, to offer employment within [Green’s company] Arcadia Group to the blameless, dedicated and loyal staff who suddenly find themselves unemployed.
“Secondly, to ‘sort’ the pension scheme – we are still waiting to hear the details of what he proposes.”