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Could marketing have averted Green’s BHS fiasco?

Is the BHS fiasco – the store chain formerly owned by Arcadia’s Sir Philip Green has gone into administration – a marketing story?

Actually it’s a story of no marketing.

Green, who’ll do well to hang on to his knighthood, is a rag trader and property wizard. Marketing really doesn’t come into it. Yes, his Top Shop has grown via publicity – there’s nothing Phil likes better than a picture in the papers with a ‘supermodel’ on each arm – but none of his brands have ever been marketed in the way that John Lewis does and others like Marks & Spencer (which he tried to buy, narrow escape that) tries to.
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Green kept the stores open for a decade or so, traded the property and took out a £400m dividend. And that’s about it.

To be fair, BHS has confounded people with rather more scruples than Green, who sold it for £1 to a bunch of no-hopers. Sir Terence Conran tried to make it the hub of a big retail empire and failed dismally. Maybe it should have been consigned to the knacker’s yard years ago.

Green saw an opportunity in the property and the rest is history. The story might not be over for him, of course, as there’s a £571m hole in the pension fund he may be asked to plug. Latest figures show it owes a staggering £1.3bn to over a thousand creditors.

No wonder people are cynical about British business and businessmen.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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