One of Britain’s oldest retailers is expected to be placed in administration today amid an urgent search for a new owner for the business.
Beales, which has filed notice of its intention to appoint administrators, was said by sources last night to be “more likely than not” to appoint administrators from KPMG today, although no decision had been taken.
The group’s parlous situation puts 1,300 jobs at risk, although the source insisted that Beales was “not a dead duck” and that there were no plans for immediate store closures while the sale process was continuing. The source said the sale process had drawn interest from at least two serious suitors.
Beale’s first department store began to trade in Bournemouth in 1881. Today, Beales and its subsidiary JE Beale has 22 department stores in England and one in Scotland. The stores sell own-bought and concession goods from fashion and cosmetics to furniture.
In October 2018 Tony Brown, chief executive, completed a management buyout through his Brown Retail Holdings vehicle, backed by Hilco, a restructuring specialist. However, he has found the going tough, highlighting the “lunacy of the business rates system”.
Just before Christmas, Beales announced the appointment of KPMG to assess “strategic and financing options” to “deliver a sustainable business model for the future”, including a possible sale.
Five years ago the group was taken private by Andrew Perloff, the Ukip-supporting founder of Panther Securities, with an offer valuing it at £1.23 million. A year later KPMG was appointed to handle a company voluntary arrangement to try to save the business through rent cuts from its landlords.
KPMG declined to comment last night. Beales was unavailable for comment.