UK

BHS closure: Last day at a British High Street stalwart

BHS Walthamstow closing

Scattered clothes rails, empty hangers and a few dwindling piles of stock are all that's left at BHS Walthamstow in north London.

"Last days!" the large yellow signs on the door proclaim. "Everything 70% off".

A crowd has turned up for the closing day of this British High Street stalwart, scouring the shelves for one final bargain. Tonight BHS stores will shut their doors for the final time in 88 years.

It's an odd assortment on offer; more jumble sale than department store. Pink pinstripe shirt £2.40. Phone cover £1.00. Child's shoes £3.50. Birthday cards 20p.

In the food hall, the refrigerators are on but empty. One corner of the store has become a graveyard for racks and rails; even the fixtures and fittings are up for grabs.

A long queue for the till stretches across the bare shop, some people towing three or four baskets. Two brooms stand ready for the final sweep of the shop floor.

One staff member, wearing a pink feathered party head-dress but also clutching a tissue, pauses to hug a colleague who's handing out free coat hangers.

"I'm alright," he says, giving a resigned shrug.

Outside on a cigarette break are four shopfitters whose company - which normally installs shops - has been hired to gut each BHS in turn.

"It's been a frosty reception in some places, you're walking in like the grim reaper... but they've been welcoming here," one of them says.

"Some of the staff have worked for BHS for 20 or 30 years. It's awful. But I'd say it's more of a party atmosphere among them today."

Local shopper Keisha Cook emerges from the glass doors with her mum Carmen clutching a single BHS bag.

"We just picked up some rubbish really, there's nothing great left," Carmen says.

Will they miss the shop? "It's really sad talking to the customer services people who are out of a job and will be signing on," says Keisha.

"But I can't say I normally came here. It was too pricey. Honestly, for us, it's just another shop front changing."

Mum-of-two Risheda Alam is leaving empty-handed, unimpressed by the discounts.

"It's a shame to see it go though. I've always come here to buy gifts and things. It's convenient more than anything."

Image caption Risheda Alam left without any final purchases

As one of the biggest shops in Walthamstow's little mall, the closure is sure to to be felt. On the mall's floor plan, the space is currently blank and unnamed.

In the little street market outside, the ladies from charity Waltham Forest Thuso who run a regular stall are worried about a drop in footfall and the possible repercussions for the area.

"It's been there for maybe two decades, and it's one of the biggest stores in the area," one says. "I just hope they put it to use while it's empty, some pop up shops or something."

Image caption Local stallholders from Waltham Forest Thuso hope the empty retail space will be put to good use
Image caption Naseem Akhtar was a loyal BHS customer of 14 years

Naseem Akhtar, a carer from Leyton, is a regular at the shop and has come several times for the closing down sale.

Her final visit has resulted in four pairs of trousers and a big bag of free hangers.

"I've been coming here for 14 years for things like school uniforms, and it was always good quality and a good price.

"I'm a single mum and that's important to me. I will miss it a lot."

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