Edinburgh Woollen Mill finally fills former BHS site

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Former BHS store empty
The former BHS store has been empty since August 2016

After lying empty since 2016, the former BHS building on Midland Road is set to have a new tenant this August.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM), the company that originally bought the building in 2017, has committed to opening its new store in Bedford on Friday, 11 August with a host of special offers and giveaways on the opening day.

Formerly owned by the Dubai-based British billionaire, Philip Day, the Midland Road building was originally planned to be a concept department store called ‘Days’, stocking brands including Peacocks, Jaeger, Jane Norman and Austin Reed.

However, just one Days store was rolled out by the company, in the former BHS store in Carmarthen, before closing in 2020 when Edinburgh Woollen Mill was placed into administration due to difficulties faced during the pandemic. In 2021, EWM was bought by a consortium of investors, saving 2,500 jobs across the business.

Read: Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group still “opening a store in Bedford”

The opening of Edinburgh Woollen Mill is a much-wanted boost to Bedford town centre, which has seen the loss of major retailers including Next and M&S.

The collapse of BHS, Debenhams and Beales also hit the town hard, leaving all three flagship stores empty.

This Edinburgh Woollen Mill expansion will see an array of employment opportunities and its brands including Country Rose, Isle, Honour Millburn and James Pringle will attract more shoppers into the town centre.

The store will stock men’s and ladieswear collections as well as a full range of gifts and accessories.

Founded in 1946 as the Langholm Dyeing and Finishing Company Limited in the thriving mill town of the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh Woollen Mill has evolved into a household name with a portfolio of 200 stores nationwide.

The business was bought by Philip Day, in 2002 but is now owned by Purepay, a consortium of international investors.

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The new store at 13 – 21 Midland Road will house EWM and Ponden Home and and will open its doors on Friday, 11 August with celebratory giveaways to new customers. Staff will greet the first 20 customers who make a purchase in-store with an Edinburgh Woollen Mill goody bag, while prizes will also be hidden in the store.

Nicola Feeney, Area Manager for the store, said: “We are excited to welcome visitors to our new store to explore our wonderful collections.

‘It’s going to be a great addition to Bedford and the local retail mix.”

Cllr Andrea Spice (Conservative), portfolio holder for the town centre, told the Bedford Independent: “It is excellent that this long-term vacant unit, on a prominent location in Bedford Town Centre, will now be occupied by a new retailer and brands to the town, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Homes.

“The company will provide new job opportunities and provide a boost to our shopping offer for residents.”

Cllr Henry Vann (LibDem) who held the post under the previous administration, welcomed the news saying: “This is testament to a vision which prioritised landlord engagement; the proactive work by the economic development team with businesses is delivering for residents – and I would encourage anyone investing in Bedford Borough to get in touch with them.”

Cllr Spice echoed these comments, saying: “Patrick Lyons, council officer and Manager for Bedford Town Deal, had been working hard with the landlords for a number of years to generate interest in the space, and get the unit occupied, so it is great those efforts have now been realised. 

If you’re interested in commercial space opportunities in the Borough, Patrick can be contacted on patrick.lyons@bedford.gov.uk to assist.