Department store Beales facing collapse as yet another High Street stalwart goes under

Beales faces collapse: 140-year-old Dorset-based department store business in race to save 22 stores and 1,000 jobs

Department store chain Beales is on the brink of collapse as yet another potential victim of the bloodbath on the High Street seeks emergency aid.

The firm, which was founded in 1881 and has its flagship store in Bournemouth, is in a race to save more than 1,000 jobs at 22 stores as it tries to find a buyer. 

The Bournemouth-based retailer is understood to be hopeful that a rescue deal can be secured, but could still be forced to enter insolvency.  

Department store chain Beales is on the brink of collapse

What is Beales and how did it start? 

Department store Beales was founded in 1881 by John Elmes Beale as The Fancy Fair. The company floated on the London stock exchange in 1995.

But it was returned to private ownership under Chief Executive Tony Brown in October 2018. Brown launched a strategy overhaul in early 2019 to revamp the department store ranges. 

The chain is the latest retailer to feel the pressure of soaring business rates and declining high street footfall amid an increasingly brutal period for the sector.

Debenhams is pushing ahead with the closure of 19 stores this month, as part of the chain’s restructuring process after entering administration last year. 

Mothercare closed all of its 79 remaining stores on Sunday after the firm’s UK business went bust.

Last month, Beales hired advisers at KPMG to lead a strategic review in order to find a profitable future for the business.

Beales stores are located in the following towns and cities

  • Beccles
  • Bedford
  • Bournemouth
  • Chipping Norton
  • Diss
  • Fareham
  • Hexham
  • Keighley
  • Kendal
  • Lowestoft
  • Mansfield
  • Perth
  • Peterborough
  • Poole
  • Skegness
  • Southport
  • Spalding
  • St Neots
  • Tonbridge
  • Wisbech
  • Worthing
  • Yeovil

The company is currently in talks with landlords over rent reductions and it has been reported that the firm also spoken with two potential buyers, including a venture capital investor and a rival retail business.

Chief executive Tony Brown told local newspaper The Daily Echo that the retailer has struggled with difficult trading conditions and criticised the ‘lunacy’ of high business rates.

Brown said: ‘We are confident that we have a solution for the business that will create a stronger if leaner Beales.

‘We hope to have a stronger business at the end of the process. 

‘I can’t predict which stores will stay and which stores won’t because it all depends on landlords and local government.

He added: ‘We’re going through a process and we hope to be able to restructure the business for a profitable future.’

The retailer was taken into private ownership by Mr Brown in 2018, 23 years after the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange.  

Beales comes as the latest in a series of blows for the high street as Debenhams was forced to hammer out a rescue deal to save it from collapse last year, while John Lewis has warned it may have to scrap its staff bonus for the first time in 67 years following dismal trading.  

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