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

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 6:21 pm
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.

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.

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".

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

"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.

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

"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.

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

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.