Developer behind Northampton's former BHS store has 'nothing to report' more than a year after sale

The three faces of Northampton's former BHS store since 2018. A "mixed leisure-retail" unit was promised after its sale.
The three faces of Northampton's former BHS store since 2018. A "mixed leisure-retail" unit was promised after its sale.

An investor has offered no update on a "vision" to create a mixed-use leisure and retail scheme out of Northampton's former BHS store.

It has been three years high street giant BHS folded overnight, with the loss of over 11,000 jobs and the closure of every store in the UK.

The store opened this week as "Fashion Box" selling factory outlet clothing.

The store opened this week as "Fashion Box" selling factory outlet clothing.

It left Northampton's store in Abington Street standing empty for nearly two years. Then, in August 2018, developers Oxford London Estates Group bought the former department store for an undisclosed fee.

At the time, company director Roni Chotoveli told the Chronicle and Echo about a "vision" to launch a mixed-use development that could comprise a hybrid of flats, shops and leisure and not let it to "another dying high street brand".

"We are investors and entrepreneurs and we have a vision to regenerate this dilapidated site," said Mr Chotoveli.

"What we are really trying to do is to find local entrepreneurs who either want to run it or co-operate on a joint venture.

Inside Factory Box, where partition walls and shoe displays have been placed to keep customers away from the disused stairs and escalator.

Inside Factory Box, where partition walls and shoe displays have been placed to keep customers away from the disused stairs and escalator.

“It’s in a very good location and with the right investment, it can be regenerated into something prestigious in the town centre."

But since then, there have been no developments or renovation work at the former store.

The unit reopened its doors five months later as 'Europe's largest Christmas £1 Store', before shutting again on Christmas Eve 2018.

Then, in February, it opened as 'Factory Outlet' - only for "closing down sale" signs to appear in its windows six months later.

The store opened as "Europe's largest 1 Christmas shop" in December 2018. It closed on Christmas Eve.

The store opened as "Europe's largest 1 Christmas shop" in December 2018. It closed on Christmas Eve.

Despite displaying "final day sales" for close to a month, "Factory Outlet" closed down in early September this year.

And now, just days after the last store's closure, the unit has reopened as "Fashion Box" and is selling factory outlet clothing.

The Chron spoke to shoppers as they left the new store yesterday (September 16).

"It was a factory outlet before and now it's a factory outlet again," said one resident.

"Factory Outlet" opened on the site in February and closed again seven months later.

"Factory Outlet" opened on the site in February and closed again seven months later.

"It still looks the same and sells the same stuff.

"I think it's horrendous. It's better than being empty I suppose but it's almost tragic when you think about it."

Following the opening of Fashion Box, the Chron contacted Mr Chotoveli of Oxford Estate Estates Group to ask what shape his plans had taken a year after purchasing the unit.

Mr Chotoveli refused to comment, and said he had "no updates" for this newspaper.

Meanwhile, according to official papers on Companies House, in June 2019 Mr Chotoveli effectively transferred responsibility for the freehold of the BHS unit from Oxford London Properties Ltd to Oxford London NH1 Ltd - a company for which he is also director and was incorporated in March this year.