Could work on Ipswich's old BHS be finally about to start?

Former BHS

Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct, has owned the former BHS since 2020. - Credit: Paul Geater

Hopes are rising that the former BHS in Ipswich's Butter Market could be converted into a large new retail store for Frasers Group - the company behind Sports Direct.

Frasers announced its purchase of the store in early 2020 - it has been closed since the collapse of BHS in 2016.

While some work was done last year, the store remains empty - but this week Frasers Group chief Michael Murray announced very good financial figures for the company and said it would be looking to push ahead with expansion plans.

No individual sites were mentioned in his report, but announcing profits of £344m Mr Murray said it was a big believer in physical stores "will continue to invest in new store openings, refurbishments and flagship opportunities to bring the world's best brands and experiences to untapped markets". 

The company has already said the new store would include Sports Direct - moving from Carr Street - Flannels and USC clothing and will also include Game and possibly see the return of Jack Wills to the town.

It had been expected the final fitting out of the new store would have started earlier this year, but it is understood that "supply chain issues" had forced the brakes to be put on the plans.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said the borough had been assured by the company that it still intended to press ahead with the redevelopment - it owns the freehold of the site.

He said: "I know many people have been frustrated by the lack of progress, but is clear that the company is planning to go ahead with this work at some stage.

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"The comments from their chief executive this week do look positive and I think everyone will be hoping this does mean that something will soon start happening there."

And this could just be the start of positive moves in the Butter Market - the borough is hopeful that a deal will soon be agreed for a new tenant to move into the Ancient House which it owns and is next to the former BHS.

Ancient House

Ipswich Council hopes to be able to unveil a new tenant for the Ancient House soon. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Mr Ellesmere said: "Things are progressing well there - we hope to be able to make a positive announcement in the near future."