Thursday, 29 July 2010

Spending a penny at BHS….

Sir Philip Green the ninth richest on the British wealthiest list will not be aware that his store in King Street Jersey has closed its toilet facilities for customers.

The Jewish boy from Croydon made good, with his luxury pad in Monaco, the £32 millions yacht, the £20 millions Gulfstream private jet and 2,300 stores in the UK to worry about - will hardly even know about the toilet needs of his customers here.

“Modern living made easy” might be the BHS slogan but it is just advertising agents jargon. They don’t really mean it.

So in the Jersey store – one of the largest and busiest shops in central St Helier – the first floor restaurant (where you could get a £2.99p breakfast) has been closed and the space turned over to retail use.

That is a simple commercial decision of course. But the popular restaurant on the ground floor with seating for 60 plus - remains in use. Yet, there are no longer any public toilet facilities because these were on the first floor and have now been closed.

Anybody who has altered a café will know that public toilets are a mandatory requirement and even the smallest restaurant has – quite properly – to make provision for disabled people. Yet here in the centre of St. Helier this most important store can apparently just remove such facilities without any permission being sought or required. Furthermore, nobody complains about it!!!!

Unfortunately, it is not just the loss of toilets and a baby changing cubicle because the emergency escape route was also sealed off. The double doors were actually secured with a cable tie!!!! Just suppose there had been a fire and people could not escape – even Sir Philip might have been concerned at the cost of such an event. Yet, nobody seems to have asked the relevant questions, not the Store’s own Health and Safety officer or any of the multitudes of public officials who are supposed to monitor such matters on behalf of the Jersey public.

Of course, Team Voice has made a fuss. We have asked questions and we have received limp and contradicting replies from 5 different officers at the Jersey Planning and Building Control Department.

According to these people the toilets are variously closed or not closed. The disabled toilet will be made available on request or it is being used as a store. There is no legal requirement for BHS to seek permission to carry out these alterations or we are still investigating the matter.

Very worrying too is the strange claims that the toilets are still available for the “use of genuine customers only” but “the toilets were required in association with the restaurant use only and not the general requirement of department stores.”
“The continuing ground floor use is regulated in such a way with the Economic Development Department that there is no requirement to provide any toilet facilities for customers.”
Make no mistake, there are very serious safety issues raised by this simple commercially inspired decision. Even with all the supposed private and public responsibility for such matters – nobody noticed or asked the right questions. There could have been a tragedy. Where was the Fire Prevention team?

If the public supervision is inadequate now – just imagine what it will be like after Ozuof’s 2% to 10% cost cutting exercise has been fully implemented!!!

The lack of provision of public toilets in large retail premises is something that needs to be addressed through legislation but the removal of existing facilities must surely fall within the scope of existing regulations? Children, pregnant women, disabled persons, people with illnesses are all groups that can have particular toilet needs but we all must have access toilet facilities. Even Sir Philip must need a toilet…..

There should be public toilet facilities provided on the ground floor adjacent to the surviving BHS restaurant/café. These should be available for the use of all at this store. In other places in the UK local councils are paying retailers and publicans to provide toilet facilities for anybody – whether customers or not – especially where “public toilets” are not available through vandalism etc.

At BHS in Jersey, somebody should also ask about staff facilities. Has anybody ensured that the current restaurant has adequate toilets for employees? No doubt the Health Department staff are monitoring the food hygiene implications here….after all we would not want any bad publicity for Jersey that a food poisoning outbreak might cause…

Submitted by Thomas Wellard


TonyTheProf said...

Have you contacted Simon Crowcroft about this?

rico sorda said...

What is the latest news on this Thomas


Anonymous said...

The news is the usual no news.
Jersey's 53 elected States members are welcome to tell us what they are doing about this. The matter is now in the public domain.

Thomas Wellard

Anonymous said...

On today's inspection the cable tie has been removed from the double escape doors at first floor but there are no signs to indicate if it is actually an escape route or if the toilets are in use or not.
As always, stock is littered about like a teenager's bedroom or the Amazing Maze so it is almost impoosible to see the escape routes at all. There are remarkably few signs and many people would not be able to see them through the jungle of displays.

It's all about maximising the square footage for sales - so safety and convenience are very much an after-thought in modern retailing. Somebody has to pay for the Mogul's Monaco pad etc too.

This store is probably 22,000 square feet or more and that means £2.5 millions in rental value at least on top of insurances and staff pay so it's no wonder that there is no room for proper escape routes or toilets that don't generate profit.

Children, babies in buggies, wheelchair users, pregnant women, stick users, those with sight impairment etc don't seem to feature very highly in modern retailing. It's as if they don't spend money and therefore can be treated as lesser beings but zig-zagging aisles between confusing displays are a nightmare for everybody. The accountants who brought Woolworths to its knees will do the same for BHS in time...
Meanwhile, if ILS has not already suspended Jersey's Fire Prevention Officer for allowing such things to be, then he should get into his bright red car with the flashing light on top and whizz down to King Street before, rather than after the fire breaks out.

Anonymous said...

Funny that anon mentions Woolworths because New Look who took over their huge King Street premises do not provide any public toilets either. When asked, a staff member there said we used to send customers to BHS!
It is not only UK traders who are so money crazed either. Local store Voisins has no public toilets unless you count the feeble attempt at male and female provision with dangerous cottage style stairs up yet again from the first floor Cafe des Artistes. You would need to be a fit mountaineer to climb these and there is no provision for disability.

Odd too that this cafe/restaurant is a recent innovation and must surely have been built under the current Building Regs which demand proper accessible toilets for all from any food catering establishment. Did somebody swing it for Gerald I wonder? Perhaps Ozo could have a word with his chum or maybe he already did when Minister at EDD.

Any stores that do provide toilets, hide them away to the remotest corners and at an upper floor if possible. In other words to be the most difficult to find and get to.

De Gruchy has a good provision for those that can locate them on the first floor.
M & S in King Street have toilets at first floor as far as possible away from their cafe and the lift. All three facilities kept as far apart as possible to provide the worst possible scenario.
There is a disabled persons toilet with a baby changing shelf but there is no sign on the door to indicate what it is. I thought it was a cupboard.

Of course, a few months ago new boy Deputy "Headway" Green gained States support for the installation of adult changing facilities in the toilets of public buildings. That has now been incorporated into the Building Regs - but it is only a joke. Nobody will actually do it!!! Our elected States members are happy to vote for such facilities when they know full well that they will never be provided. It makes them feel good.

When you are out and about experiencing the joys of retail therapy - ask about the toilet facilities. You never know when nature might call.....

Thomas Wellard

Anonymous said...

Why do betting shops and pubs all provide toilets?
In my local bookies there are never more than half a dozen customers on the premises but they have male and female and disabled toilets. Why is this if big stores like BHS that have hundreds of customers do not have to provide any facilities at all, even when they sell food?

My local pub is also struggling for business but they have to provide proper toilet facilities for everybody and they have a baby changing unit too but I don't see many babies drinking there.

Why do the big stores get away with this - is it the old old Jersey story of big money talks?

I even heard of a farmers shed selling a few spuds and things in the country having to provide all the facilities - why so if BHS don't have to?

What about the CO-OP? Anybody know if they have any facilities. My so called locale does not.

Anonymous said...

How about our fantastic "hypermarket" Grande Marche? They have reduced the toilets to ONE during refurbishment!!! There are always the portaloos in the car park I was told.Who wants to wait for the lift then use the builder's toilet? The powers that be at the Coop think that this is not important, obviously, they do not suffer from any bladder/bowel problems - just excessive flatulence! I have even seen staff using the solitary toilet.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been to 1st floor in B&Q? BEWARE! Handrails are blocked by life size cardboard cutouts, because advertising is much more important than safety of customers using the stairs! Even starting at the bottom of the stairs the beginning of the handrail is hidden by important notices of what you can buy & where. What are the numpties thinking of? They may think again if someone falls & sues!

Anonymous said...

New Look have just been fined £400,000 plus £136,000 costs for the inadequate fire safety precautions at their Oxford Street, London store. This followed a major fire in 2007 so we must not kid ourselves that these places are safe.
A Woolworths store in Manchester was destroyed by fire in 1979 and 10 were killed. As a result all sorts of regulations were introduced about fire safety in large shops but have these ever been enacted in Jersey? Wonder if any of our sleepy States Members know?
The Tesco in Waterlooville, Hants was just destroyed by fire and that was the third fire in ten years there. Arson is always a problem and it can happen in Jersey too.
The Homebase DIY store at Maidstone, Kent was just torched and the damage is over £8 millions.
John Lewis in Southampton was badly damaged by fire in 2009 and ten people were taken to hospital. Bryant's Department store in St Ives (Cambs) was englufed in fire in April this year.
The Westgate House Department store was extensively damaged in 2009.
McIlroys Department store in Caernarfon(Wales) was destroyed in 1992.
BHS in Exeter town centre was badly damaged in a blaze and had to be evacuated in 2009.

What safety measures are really in place for these large stores in Jersey? Can the emergency services reach them quickly? Can the buildings be evacuated?

Cable ties on emergency doors should result in prosecution NOW. It's no use waiting for the fire to happen.

Anonymous said...

On one (UK) BHS website a customer said that he fell over some stock on the floor, broke his wrist and was off-work for 12 months.
Another commented re the BHS Oxford Street store. "Don't go upstairs its a complete maze and it took 15 minutes to find the exit."

BHS sell some good things and at reasonable price but their turnover is huge. They can afford to provide toilets and to look after customers safety.

Anonymous said...

BHS in King Street do in fact have a disabled toilet, but as there is no longer a restaurant, this is the only legal requirement.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Whenever I go into town to shop, I don't expect to find a toilet in a shop. There are public toilets in the market and in Conway Street. Most locals should be aware of this.

Anonymous said...

We at the Voice are continuing to ask about BHS and other stores.
Today we were told by BHS staff that there are no toilets for the public use and that those in the market should be used (tough titty on a Thursday afternoon!). On the other hand, Planning Office staff say that the toilets are available to BHS shoppers on request but that a further inpsection is to be undertaken today (Friday).
An assurance has also been given that the escape routes will be made clear and proper escape route signs put up at first floor.
Also, we have asked about appropriate codes that apply in such stores regarding the display of flammable fabrics and escape aisles. Enquiries will be made - so we are told - of the FIRE department.
Also we asked about the health implications of the surviving cafe at BHS or other shops and staff toilet facilities. We were invited to approach Public Health direct. We don't think we should have to, since there are 53 elected States mambers who should be doing all this and there are many public employees who have a professional reposnibility too.
Besides which, there are the specialist staff employed by the stores to look after such matters and all the shop staff who should be fighting for a proper deal for themselves and their customers.

Must we all fight, just for ourselves all the time? Can't we fight for each other? Some hope!!!

Thomas Wellard

Anonymous said...

This is excellent journalism. It goes to show that you don't need to be 'accredited' to be good and it shows them up for being lousy.

Anonymous said...

Still no States Members showing any interest here - how odd!
We raised the emergency and safety matters with the Fire Prevention Dept (Minister Ian Le Marquand). Their officer said there was no responsibility for shops and we should contact Health and Safety at Social Security (Minister Ian Gorst).
The SS Officer said it was a matter for Fire Prevention - but we persisted. Eventually we persuaded an SS officer to visit B & Q. The result was that obstructions have now been removed from the stairs there.....but it was a battle and there was no enthusiasm to look at other premises or to show any concern over lack of toilets for staff or customers. Not required under the current regulations etc...And why didn't we speak directly with the relevant shops?

So, perhaps the two Ians will now pray that there is no fire or that they don't need to use the toilets in any of Jersey's big stores.

Anonymous said...

Did anybody notice how Dave Cameron has brought Sir Philip Green into the UK coalition government as an "efficiency adviser"?
Perhaps he will close down all public toilets or introduce a user pays policy at Westminster.
Or maybe Sir Philip will be the special consultant on tax planning devices through havens like Monaco and Jersey?
Has Ozo been invited to serve too?

Nearer home, there are other changes afoot in the BHS/Arcdia Empire with a policy of closing down small stores like Wallis, Topshop, Evans, Miss Selfridge and Burtons. These are being incorporated within BHS stores and some of the labels are already housed within the King Street, Jersey store.

Elsewhere, ten BHS stores have been sold off to Primark and it is part of a worrying High Street trend. More BHS stores are likley to be off-loaded by Arcadia group.

What does this say about any other remaining outlets in the Channel Islands?

Certainly a trend that WEB aka the Jersey Development Company will view with apprehension. The prospects for any new developments on the Jersey Waterfront that include retailing elements must be looking very glum and the retailing gaps in King/Queen Streets must become ever wider.

The Woolworths effect is only just reaching through to government levels....we should all take more notice when the toilets are removed.
What follows can be be very unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

All these references to Woolworths reminds me - whatever happened to all the assets of the local Woolworths businesses in Jersey and Guernsey?

Did the Jersey taxpayer finally have to pay out for the former employees or was there enough local money in the pot? Whatever happened to other creditors in the Channel Islands - were they all paid out too?

There were claims for many £millions in the Viscounts papers by GMAC Ltd - the UK branch of a spin-off from General Motors - and there were huge potential assets in property and trademark rights (Ladybird and the Woolworths name itself).

How about creditors elsewhere - did they get a proper share in any assets hidden away in these finance centre islands? Are we confident that we have not been shafting our British brothers and sisters and are the hands of HM Viscout, Senator Maclean, Deloittes and the Officers of the Royal Court completely clean in this matter?

Shall we ever know?
Are any of our 53 representatives on the case?

Anonymous said...

Re Woolworths - my thoughts exactly.
The Jersey Viscount's Department will say only that this case will be brought back to the Royal Court "at the end of September" but offers no more details. A recent question of Senator Maclean in the States revealed that there were some outstanding creditor claims from Guernsey on the Jersey assets but nobody is saying much.
There is potentially a great deal of money involved but we should not forget that 30,000 working people lost their jobs. Many had been working for 25 years of more with the business.

For Deloittes it was a bonanza of course. They were said to be charging £22,000 per hour for their services with individuals raking in up to £890 per hour in a team led by Neville Kahn.

Austin Mitchell MP described the winding-up business as "an enormous extortion racket".
In total (at the last count) Deloittes had taken nearly £6 millions in fees but whether the Jersey winding-up is charged separately is not yet known.

Deloittes were famously criticised in the Jersey Royal Court for having acted in this island without having obtained the prior approval of the Court. Without that they had no legal authority to be acting in Jersey at all.
To protect all parties - including the public - all matters are supposed to be brought back to the Royal Court for final approval and no monies should leave the Bailiwick unless local creditors have been paid off. We shall perhaps hear more fully in September? Or perhaps not!

In fact, Deloittes have also been critiised in the UK for acting on behalf of the Woolworths banking syndicate (GMAC, Burdale etc) as well as being administrators. Questions of conflict of interest have been raised and it may be just coincidence that £335 Millions were paid to the bankers as "secured creditors" while many thounsands of lesser beings received litle or nothing.
One sock manufacturer was owed £300,000 and faced ruin. Ex - employees received only the bare legal minimum under UK law. Many were looking at pursuing legal actions for recovery of other sums and pension rights were not guaranteed.

The rates of fees charged by Deloittes were conveniently agreed by a "creditors committee" made up of bankers and private equity firms.

When this case returns to the Royal Court it will be no doubt be fully sorted. Any difficult questions that might cause Jersey's finance industry to be seen in a bad light will have been ironed out - but who will be arguing on behalf of the little people? Shall anybody here be fighting for any "unsecured creditors" facing ruin?

Who shall be fighting to ensure that the Jersey tax-payer's bill is kept to a minimum and who shall be inspecting the fees charged by Deloitte's and others?

When the dust has settled, shall any of our 53 elected representatives be proposing any changes in Jersey law regarding outside businesses that fail here?

Anonymous said...

Since we are talking about taking the p**s. What about Connex drivers on Friday and Saturday evenings charging £2.00 to students instead of £1.00 only once the bus is at its stated capacity and not giving out tickets to the extra ten they get on!!! Don't believe me TTS then try a 'secret shopper'.

Anonymous said...

Interesting details of Philip Green's financial dealings through Jersey devices in "Private Eye" City Page.

As always, it is the sort of information that our own dear "accredited media" would not discover in a million years and our Financial Services regulators would never look at.

Some extracts are posted on Tony's Musings Blog -perhaps a helpful nerd could post some links here?

Anonymous said...

In Manchester city centre there is now a "City Loos Scheme" in operation.
House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Debenhams,the Arndale, the Triangle, the Craft Centre, Museum of Science and Industry etc are all displaying signs inviting people to use their toilet facililities - whether they are customers or shoppers or not.
Signs also indicate if the facilities are for male, female, disabled persons or baby changing and say "You're welcome to use our facilities."

Manchester? Where is that? Is that on another planet?

Anonymous said...

Anybody interested in public toilet provision should Google to discover what other people think about the subject.
They will also discover that such issues as discrimination are addressed.
Of particular interest is the BRITISH TOILET ASSOCIATION which campaigns for better public toilet facilities for all.

On their site are links to many similar instances where shops refuse to provide public toilets and of children being obliged to relieve themselves in the street.

Ironically, shops are claiming Health & Safety regulations as the reason why their toilets are for staff only......

The BTA's AGM takes place on 15th September 2010.

Anonymous said...

HC 636 was published in October 2008 by a UK Parliament Select Committee. It is titled "The Provision of Public Toilets."

TEAM VOICE has now contacted the Jersey Scrutiny office and urged that a similar study is made of public toilet provision in this Island (it could also look at transport systems to and from the island too).
Does Jersey have a public toilet strategy?
The UK report includes much research that will not need to be repeated. The cost of carrying out the study should be minimal but the benefits would be universal.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

BHS store at Llanelli, Carmarthenshire has joined the local "Community Toilet Scheme" there.
Under a Welsh Assembly Government funded initiative, shops, pubs and restaurants are opening up their toilets for general public use and can receive payments up to £500 towards the cost of maintenance.
There is no need to buy anything at the businesses which all report increased footfall and some premises open later with security because of the extra public use and activity.

Where is Llanelli? Is that on another planet too like Manchester? Do any of our 53 States representatives speak Welsh?
Can any of them speak to us about public toilets or store safety in Jersey?

Anonymous said...

A very interesting piece from the BBC It is a basic human right.

Anonymous said...

As the Fire Officer explained, the recent New Look flat flames could so easily have spread to adjoining buildings like BHS.

An inspection at BHS today revealed that access to the 1st floor emergency exit onto King Street is still very inadequate. The door openings are reduced by wall mounted displays and the floor routes are restricted by all sorts of products and equipment. Unfortunately, fires don't occur at the best moment - they are likely to happen when safety standards are lax and in a severe fire (when clothes start to ignite)the situation very quickly gets out of control.
The EXIT signs are still very few and difficult to see too AND the toilets remain closed to customers according to BHS staff.

Changes in the management of FIRE department services are also a cause of worry. More and more responsibilty is to be placed on building owners and charges, for example, levied for dealing with emergencies. User pays firemen will soon be the norm - are you ready with your cash?

Or, are you insured? - because that is the question that might be asked in future before the hose is uncoiled. Self certification is also rearing its ugly head ( just like Building Control) and Health and Safety will have more responsibility too for such matters.
Currently H & S say they have just two inspectors to deal with everything but if they take on fire and some building control duties - who will employ them and more painfully - who will pay for their services and advice?

Tittle tattle and endless gossip about nothing of importance might be the stuff of some bloggers but here we try to discuss seriously important issues.
Sorry to be so boring boys and girls.

Anonymous said...

Can't say I noticed any toilets at Pasty Presto the other day, will have another look some time!