New Bhs branches will create 1,500 jobs

STOREHOUSE, the Bhs and Mothercare retailer, is to create 1,500 jobs over the next two years with 12 new branches of Bhs. The company has also opened a new Bhs Homestore in Bath in the past few weeks and will monitor progress with the view to a possible roll-out.

Described as a kind of "early Habitat", the stores focus on sectors where Bhs has traditionally been strong, like lighting.

Bhs is opening sports sections in some of its stores and has signed deals with Pony and Gola to offer products on an exclusive basis. Keith Edelman, Storehouse's chief executive said the move was designed to give the group exposure to the branded sportswear market which has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past few years, though he recognised that growth appeared to be slowing.

Bhs will also be seeking supplies of other branded sports clothing through the grey market but said it would be stocking full ranges, unlike supermarket groups like Tesco, and would not be selling the goods at heavily discounted prices. Mr Edelman said any boost from the World Cup would depend on England's performance in the tournament, which starts next month.

"If England get knocked out early I think sales [of World Cup related merchandise] will die," he said. Conversely, if England do well and reach the World Cup final, Bhs and Mothercare would probably sell out of related merchandise, he said.

Mr Edelman said he had high hopes for new fashion ranges such as lightweight combat clothing popularised by the female pop band All Saints.

The comments came as Storehouse announced a 5.7 per cent rise in pre- tax profits to pounds 125m. Bhs improved profits by 9.2 per cent with Mothercare profits up by 1.8 per cent.

Same store sales rose by 2.2 per cent at Bhs and 1.8 per cent at Mothercare. No figures were given on current trading though the company said like- for-like sales showed "an improving trend".

A fuller statement on current trading will be given at the company's annual meeting in July. Storehouse shares rose 12.5p to 256p.