Owner of Perth department store could be sold as financing options pondered at Beales

Beales acquired the historic site of the former McEwens department store in Perth city centre in 2017. Picture: Contributed
Beales acquired the historic site of the former McEwens department store in Perth city centre in 2017. Picture: Contributed
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Beales, the department store chain with a store in Perth, has confirmed it is putting itself up for sale as it reviews its refinancing options amid tough high street conditions.

The Bournemouth-headquartered group, which at 138 years old is one of Britain’s oldest department store businesses, said it had launched a formal sale process as part of a strategic and financial review being led by KPMG, though a sale remains just one option under consideration.

The group said it “continues to acclimatise to the ever-changing landscape and challenges of the retail market”.

It is looking for investment to “deliver a sustainable business model for the future” including cost-saving measures and a refocus on homewares, small domestic appliances, fashion accessories and shoes.

Beales, which was founded in 1881 by John Elmes Beale, employs some 1,300 staff and another 300 in concessions across its 22 stores. It was sold in a management buy-out to group chief executive Anthony Brown in October last year.

Beales acquired the historic site of the former McEwens department store in Perth city centre in 2017. More than 100 jobs were lost in Perth and Kinross in March of 2016 when McEwens, which had been operating in the St John Street location for nearly 150 years, unexpectedly went into administration.

While Beales is reportedly looking at a small number of store closures and moves to slash rents, the group said it also wants to look at buying sites to expand a format that has seen early successes in its new Fareham branch.

Beales launched a strategy overhaul in early 2019 to revamp its ranges, which it said is showing “significant sales improvements”.

But the retail sector – and department store chains in particular – is being hit hard by tough trading conditions. Debenhams, for example, saw its lenders seize control of the company in April.

READ MORE: Department store Beales takes over former McEwens site in Perth