Much of the analysis of the demise of BHS has focused on its apparent inevitability: everyone saw it coming and no one could understand how the business had lasted as long as it had. This overlooks the c.£650m the business was turning over when the bottom dropped out. Its sudden exit leaves a not-insignificant supply gap in the market.

History tells us that such gaps take time to fill, creating a unique opportunity for survivors. To give just two examples, the collapse of Woolworths in 2008 opened the door for land grabs from the hard discounters, and Mike Ashley cleaned up after JJB Sports imploded.

So, who stands to benefit from the collapse of BHS? Three groups spring to mind:

1. The obvious substitutes. BHS generated 75% of its turnover from sales of apparel. There are obvious new homes for this spending, including department stores’ own brand propositions and M&S, but also the likes of Primark and others, who are already serving this latent demand for design and quality at a good price. The story is similar for home furnishings spend: department stores are clear contenders, but don’t rule out the likes of Dunelm with its interest in the category

2. The technologically literate. To assume that all BHS spending will automatically fall into the laps of those retailers that we might consider to be “the nearest substitute” does these customers a disservice. Our research into this demographic emphasises the group’s active interest in multi-channel shopping, and a feeling that it is younger in spirit than the generations before it. Capturing this spend will rest on retailers’ ability to marry a relevant proposition with appropriate channel strategy

3. The opportunists. BHS was historically known for its lighting proposition. This category is now woefully underserved: certain department stores offer assortments of product that are half-heartedly presented as curated collections, but to describe them as an after-thought would not be wholly unfair.

Will we see a new lighting pureplayer spring up? Unlikely, not least because of the replacement cycle in the category. But the sudden supply gap and stagnant nature of the category may create the right conditions for an established homewares specialist to grow the category, and take advantage of potential increased interest in the home, particularly if the whispers of recession in the first half of next year materialise.

Nick Ashcroft