Sir Philip Green says he is considering moving into food for the first time by setting up high street convenience stores at BHS sites.
The retail tycoon said that Arcadia, his fashion conglomerate, has drawn up plans for a prototype food store within BHS and plans to decide by the end of the year whether to press ahead with the plans.
BHS used to sell food before it was bought by Sir Philip in 2000 and a 150 of its 183 department stores already have planning permission to sell food.
Sir Philip said he his considering launching the food stores in response to the rush from supermarkets into smaller high street locations and customer research that suggested shoppers wanted to buy food from BHS.
“I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t test it,” Sir Philip said.
A move into food would put BHS into competition with the biggest supermarket retailers such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, but also Marks & Spencer, which Sir Philip tried to buy in 2004, which has food halls and stand-alone Simply Food stores.
Sir Philip said that if the group decided to press ahead into food, it would appoint a “world champion” to lead the business.
He added: “Every one of the major supermarkets seems to think it [convenience stores] is the way to go. Our customers have said they’d like to buy food. We might have a shot at it.”
The Arcadia boss was speaking as the company, which owns Topshop, Burton, and Miss Selfridge, published full-year results.
In the year to August 31, like for like sales fell by 2.7pc. Total sales rose from £2.68bn to £2.74bn, while pre-tax profits rose from £104m to £481m on the back of Arcadia banking £350m from the sale of a 25pc stake in Topshop and Topman to investment group Leonard Green.
Underlying pre-tax profits rose slightly from £166.9m to £167.8m.
At a results presentation to staff in London, Sir Philip denied rumours he is in negotiations to sell the loss-making BHS. However, he said it would be “idiotic” to ever out a sale of one of his business.
He warned that trading conditions “remain challenging”, with like-for-like sales down 3.7pc in the last 10 weeks as unseasonably warm in the UK has held back sales of autumn and winter clothing.
“Hopefully there will be some winter before Christmas,” Sir Philip said. “We are in good shape. There are no major panics anywhere.”
Over the next year, Arcadia plans to open 161 new stores around the world. It is in talks to open further standalone Topshop stores in the US on the back of success in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Sir Philip is also considering expansion into China.
In the UK, Sir Philip has refurbished the Arcadia stores at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, which have subsequently enjoyed a double-digit increase in sales. Arcadia now plans to upgrade up to 20 stores per brand with the new formats.