THE UPBEAT jazz band busking in the afternoon sun of a Spring afternoon may have lightened the mood of passers-by. But inside the flagship Scottish department store of the troubled BHS chain the atmosphere is heavy as lead.

The store, housed in a palatial building on Edinburgh's Princes Street for decades, has been left to run itself into the ground, according to both disappointed customers and staff there now threatened with redundancy, and who see themselves as the latest victims of the high street. No wonder many of BHS workers feel their company is 'the new Woolworths'.

On Monday administrators were called into the retail brand, which was owned by the controversial tycoon Sir Philip Green for 15 years until he sold it for £1 last March to Retail Acquisitions, a consortium of accountants and lawyers led by businessman and former racing driver Dominic Chappell.

READ MORE: Watchdog launches pensions probe into collapsed retailer BHS

It puts almost 11,000 jobs at risk. There is an estimated £571million deficit in the company pension fund.

The stricken retailer has 16 stores across Scotland, with its premises up until now a seemingly permanent fixture on Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street and at the St Enoch Centre, as well as in the centres of Aberdeen, Dundee, Falkirk, Livingston, Stirling and Ayr ... but this week the death rattle was clearly audible.

Workers at BHS stores across the UK have been ordered not to speak to the media. However, a group of employees across several BHS stores in Scotland's Central Belt, who asked not to be identified, told the Sunday Herald they felt "betrayed" by a company that once sought to style itself as a "family" orientated department store.

A middle-aged male store assistant, who has been with BHS since the early 1980s, said: "I can remember when working at a BHS store was one of the best jobs you could get after leaving school.

"But now it's like it's being left to rot and all the staff here are being left on the shelf, not being told anything and waiting to be thrown onto a rubbish heap."

A worker at another store said that most employees felt as though they were being "provoked into resentment" by the way tycoons such as former owner Sir Philip Green had amassed wealth from their involvement with the store, while staff were left facing redundancy.

She said: "I've been here since I was a teenager, but I feel let down by the way our place of work is just being killed off.

"It's a betrayal and we've been effectively told to just shut up and accept it, while noone does anything about it." On the issue of being told not to speak to the press, she said: "It's the same as being gagged."

Another BHS sales worker added: "It's like we're being told you don't matter in all this and that the only issue is profit margin and talk about this rich guy and the other. We feel let down and abandoned and no-one speaks up for us."

READ MORE: Watchdog launches pensions probe into collapsed retailer BHS

It's been a while since BHS was bustling with customers. Though those aged 55 and over remain loyal – over half its sales are from this demographic – industry experts claim it has lost almost 800,000 UK shoppers in the past five years and has been overtaken by John Lewis, TK Maxx and Sainsbury’s.

In Edinburgh it's certainly not busy. Inside only a handful of customers tuck into cooked breakfasts in the two spacious cafes in the Edinburgh store. At lunchtime it is still scantly populated.

Retired chemist Alastair Robertson, 67, emerging with a BHS shopping bag, was not impressed by the behaviour of its owners. "They've handled it pretty badly and the way the workers have been treated is awful, as they have just been left in a situation where they don't know what's going to happen to their jobs."

Maureen Bonney, 76, of Edinburgh's West End, a regular at the Princes Street store, for decades, said it felt like an iconic shop at the heart of the Scottish capital was deliberately being run down ahead of closure. "It's a real pity what's happening to BHS here and all across Scotland," she said.

"As someone who has been coming here for years, I can see that the shop has gone way down and that things are not as good as they used to be. But it's the staff I feel sorry for most of all."

Avril Capaldi, 60, a massage therapist, from Corstorphine, suggested that the death of the BHS brand would be like the end of an era for Scotland's high street, as she made what could be a last poignant shopping trip to the store.

She said: "It's been such a landmark building in Edinburgh for so many years and it will be bad for the city to lose it."

Talk about a possible rescue package for the troubled chain is inspiring little hope. Former owner Dominic Chappell said he would look to save a "substantial majority" of the department chain's 164 UK-wide shops and keep the BHS brand despite the receivers Duff & Phelps being called in to handle administration.

Unions are lining up talks with BHS lawyers next Tuesday to save what they can after being "besieged" with calls from worried members.

Usdaw's national officer David Gill said: "We've been inundated with calls from our members worrying about whether the situation will be like Woolworths or Comet. There are massive concerns about the pensions schemes people have paid into.

"From what I understand people have been treated very well, but there's this uncertainty of not knowing."

Neil Findlay, a Labour Lothians list election candidate, said workers were bearing the brunt of bad business decisions. He added: "Their business model is one based on low pay, insecure employment and poor workers rights and when things go badly wrong as they did here it is these very same exploited workers who lose the most."

The SNP also expressed concern. A spokesman said: "Clearly this is a worrying time for BHS employees, and we will do what we can to help - the first step is to see if the administrators are successful in getting viable offers for the business."

READ MORE: Watchdog launches pensions probe into collapsed retailer BHS

Meanwhile, former BHS owners Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell face being hauled in front of MPs to explain their management of BHS after an influential parliamentary committee launched an inquiry.

The Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee has announced it will explore the sale and acquisition of BHS, including whether the directors of Green’s Arcadia and Retail Acquisitions acted as best they could to fulfil their statutory duties.

But as staff closed up shop at the end of the shift, and a handful of shoppers trickled out from the BHS building in Princes Street, the future of the workers still hangs precariously in the balance.