Could former BHS in Ipswich be preparing to reopen for Sports Direct?

Shopfitters have moved into the former BHS site in Ipswich Butter Market. Picture: JASON NOBLE

Shopfitters have moved into the former BHS site in Ipswich Butter Market. Picture: JASON NOBLE - Credit: Archant

Shopfitters have moved in to the former BHS department store on the Butter Market street in the heart of Ipswich – eight months after it was bought by retailer Sports Direct.

The store has been empty since BHS collapsed in 2016 – and there had been plans to split it into smaller units including a bar and restaurant as well as smaller shops.

However there had been rumours that Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley had been interested in buying the store, and earlier this year it was confirmed that his company had bought the freehold of the store.

MORE: Sports Direct confirms purchase of BHS in Ipswich

It announced that it would moving its Sports Direct store, which is currently in a first-floor unit in Carr Street with a very small entrance, to the Butter Market along with a Flannels store and USC store – all part of the same group.

At the time there was a separate Jack Wills store in Ipswich – which became part of the Sports Direct group last year. That has since closed but there has been no announcement about whether that might join the other brands in the Buttermarket.

MORE: Jack Wills closes Suffolk stores

Now shop fitters Sloane Curtis, who advertise on their website that they work with Sports Direct and its sister company The Fraser Group, have moved in to start work in the former BHS store.

A spokesman for Ipswich council said they had not yet heard anything from the new owners of the site – but pointed out that because the unit had been a shop since the 1990s no change of use application would be needed, although planners would have to approve new signs or fascias.

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During the lockdown no one at Sports Direct was able to say how their plans for the site were progressing. We have asked for more information about what is happening with the arrival of the shopfitters, but have not yet had a response.

It is not clear whether Sports Direct, Flannels and USC would have separate shops with the large store being divided up – or whether they would be departments in one large unit.

When it announced its purchase, Sports Direct did say that the store would not include the House of Fraser brand which was bought by Mr Ashley last year.

The name of the group has since been changed from Sports Direct to Fraser Group – although the sports brand remains at its heart.