But is it right to offer so little personality as to encourage consumers to ignore you? Let’s pretend this BHS signage represents the brand. It’s monochromatic, and unembellished. All-caps. Sans serif. Grey. There’s so little to intrigue or divert here that it’s almost anti-design, somehow pulling off the trick of being both ambiguous and unfashionable.
BHS’ most progressive action that I can remember is when they commuted the name British Homes Stores to its three letter acronym (so modern). Presumably this was to give the brand a wider remit. But removing damaging influences is not the same as increasing appeal.
Louis CK the US stand up comic has a brilliant routine that posits both sides of an argument – the ‘right’ side and the nagging, doubting side that you don’t believe but can’t ignore. Example: Of course it’s tragic if you get killed fighting for your country … but maybe if you go to another country and point a gun at someone getting shot’s not that weird.
Well, to extend the logic to BHS: Of course it sad that the long-standing retailers are withering seven years after the financial crash … but maybe if those retailers aren’t trying to attract customers, they don’t deserve to keep their place on the high street.
Recently Philip Green sold BHS for £1, with analysts predicting a dissemination of its real estate to the likes of Lidl and Aldi. Pessimistic prognosis indeed. But the fact that they have stores in 18 other countries outside Britain (including The Falklands, Uzbekistan and, somewhat confusingly, Mongolia), suggests that there’s plenty worth retaining. It makes you wonder if it’s their Britishness that lies behind the brand’s remaining bastion of appeal (at least to foreign markets), and the fact that their website’s masthead incorporates the long format of the name could be deemed to support this theory.
Now, I don’t know their recent share activity but if BHS do only have one last throw of the dice, then why go out with a whimper (as the above signage suggests) and not a bang?
We know that global consumers are enamoured by an (albeit stereotyped) version of England that is a colonial cocktail of Oxbridge, Bath Spa and bowler hats. So why not make the most of it and put the B back into BHS? We know it can be done with panache (Burberry, Barbour, the BBC and Claridge’s all have Britishness at their core and they’ve all got high cool factor) so why not a brand with British in its title?
Celebrate your heritage in style and who knows … maybe BHS will be great again.