As I write this, it looks as if BHS is done for. They’re talking about 11,000 jobs – which is not quite the whole picture, as obviously BHS being shit has allowed other retailers to employ many more people over the years. But 11,000 is a lot, and it’s no joke to the individuals concerned.
One of the terrible things is that nobody in the world at all saw this coming. Clearly, if it had obviously been going to happen, there would be big contingency plans already put in place by the government; ones that would be a step up from ‘the unemployment office,’ and that recognised the fact that this isn’t just some tiny local employer going under. But, as I said, nobody at all saw it… oh.
There are a couple of schools of thought in situations like this. One is that if companies are failing then they must be allowed to fail. I understand the theory of this, although, as far as I can work out, it’s most rigorously adhered to by those who would then go on to begrudge giving the failees any welfare benefits, as they hadn’t worked hard enough or something like that.
The second is that the taxpayer should do something to support big sectors of the economy when they get into trouble. The good news for BHS is that we do this on an alternate basis, and as it went ‘banks – yes’, ‘steel – no’ then it is BHS’s turn.
My alternative proposal – a ‘third way’ if you like – is here in the headline. BHS is probably doomed. It is a non-viable business, whose single dynamic idea ever was the ultra-creative rebrand to ‘BHS’ from ‘British Home Stores’ and back again, and whose storefronts people only ever went near so that they could see exactly what Britain’s High Streets were like in the time of ‘The Sweeney’. I can’t really see a way back.
However, there must be millions upon millions of pounds of unsold stock in these stores. This is good, practical clothing, and it would be a shame for it to go to waste. I suggest that bankers be made to purchase and wear it.
It is an ideal solution. The receipts will not save the chain, but they will go a long way to help the staff as they try to find new jobs. Bankers will be happy to pay off the debt that some in society feel they owe – even if they do need some legal encouragement to do so – and they will be the envy of their friends in the tax havens as they turn up in their non-iron slacks and printed t-shirts that are my dad’s idea of edgy.
There are those who will say that compelling a section of the community to forfeit their money and to don frumpy clothing whenever they step outside their own detached homes in the South East of England on threat of imprisonment would be the action of a despotic society. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and once the bankers got used to the idea I’m sure they would be glad to play their part.