Angel Centre in doubt after Beales enters administration

Angel Centre in doubt after Beales enters administration
Beales at the Angel Centre

The group, which operates 23 stores nationwide, said the move was necessary as it ‘continues to acclimatise to the ever-changing landscape and challenges of the retail market’.

It had warned that administration was likely if a buyer could not be found and added: “Investment is sought to deliver a sustainable business model for the future.”

Accountants KPMG will oversee the process. The Tonbridge store will continue to trade and staff will be kept on during the process  – the company employs around 1,050 people.

Beales, which has been in existence since 1881 and is based in Bournemouth, has been in Tonbridge since 2002, when it took over Bentalls – who previously occupied the premises.

“With the impact of high rents and rates exacerbated by disappointing trading over the Christmas period, and extensive discussions around additional investment proving unsuccessful, there were no other available options but to place the company into administration,” said Will Wright of KPMG.

Beales had already held talks with landlords over rent reductions, through a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Chief Executive Tony Brown has criticised local councils for failing to help High Street retailers. He told the BBC: “At the moment, in my view councils really don’t care.

“They get their business rates, whether we’re there or not, because the landlord pays if the store closes. We’ve only managed to get one council to help us out – on a temporary basis.

“In a number of our stores, I pay three or four times more business rates than I do rent. Now that can’t be right.”

He added: “The sheer weight of the additional costs that are piled upon us – if you take the pension increases, you take rates, you take changes in the way we can apply for lending – there is a co-ordinated effort, or what feels like it, to make it as difficult as possible [to be in retail].”

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Leader, Nicolas Heslop, said: “It is regrettable that Beales has gone into administration and the news will mean a particularly anxious time for the staff at the Tonbridge store. 

“I have asked that Borough Council staff work with JobCentre in offering any practical support to them.

“I was aware of comments made by Tony Brown which would appear to be directed more at national Government – which sets the level of business rates – not borough councils generally or Tonbridge & Malling specifically.

“While we can offer discretionary rate reliefs in certain circumstances, these are generally only available for smaller businesses.”

In the year to March 2019, Beales reported a loss of £3.1m, compared with a loss of £1.3m for the previous 12 months.

Other department store chains have been in financial difficulty, with Debenhams also closing 19 stores this month.

Plans are expected to be announced in the spring for the redevelopment of the Angel Centre by Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust – but the latest news may mean a rethink.

The trust is part of the Borough Council, which owns the site. It runs a sport and leisure complex there which is understood to have seen a 10 per cent fall in income over a three-month period last year.

In 2014 the Council suffered a major financial blow when Sainsbury’s, who run a superstore next door to Beales, pulled out of a proposed £70 million regeneration of the area.


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