Sainsbury’s considers its options after Beales closure announced

Sainsbury's considers its options after Beales closure announced
Beales department store is closing

The news comes after it was revealed last week that the Jump In trampoline park is also facing closure in May, with the loss of 60 jobs.

The Beales retail chain went into administration a month ago because of ‘the ever-changing landscape and challenges of the retail market’, putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk.

Accountants KPMG, who are overseeing the process, announced on February 7 that Beales would close 12 of its 23 stores nationwide – including the one in Tonbridge.

A spokesperson for KPMG told the Times last week: “We haven’t yet set a date for the closure of the Tonbridge store, but it is expected to trade for approximately eight weeks.

“Staff at this store will be retained to assist with trading over the weeks ahead, and the joint administrators and their teams will continue to work closely with staff during this period. We cannot comment further at this stage around redundancy arrangements.”

It is speculated that neighbouring Sainsbury’s will expand into the Beales site in a massive overhaul of the Angel Centre. The supermarket giant holds a 125-year lease on the premises.

Plans were already being discussed for a redevelopment of the Angel Centre by Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust, part of the borough council which owns the complex.

The trust runs the sport and leisure complex next to Beales and is said to have reported a 10 per cent fall in income over a three-month period last year.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council are still feeling the financial after-effects of the decision by Sainsbury’s to pull out of a proposed £70million regeneration of the area in 2014.

The Council Leader, Nicolas Heslop, told the Times: “The closure of Beales is a big blow to the town, customers and especially the many staff who will lose their jobs.

“When we learnt that the company had gone into administration, I immediately put arrangements in place for borough council staff to work with JobCentre Plus to offer practical support to staff at the store.”

He remained confident about the town’s economy, however, saying: “Despite this sad news, Tonbridge remains a vibrant and successful town centre, with a fantastic array of shops, food and drink establishments and leisure facilities all within the setting of Tonbridge Castle and the river.”

Beales, which has operated since 1881, has been in the town since 2002 when it took over Bentalls – who previously occupied the premises.

Matt Boughton, Councillor for Medway ward where Beales is situated, said: “It is a big blow for Tonbridge that Beales will no longer trade in our town.

“They have been part of the community for many years and our thoughts are with the staff who will lose their jobs.

“Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult for stores like these to survive, especially as Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council does not set the level of business rates.

“We hope that Sainsbury’s, as owner of the store, are able to produce ambitious plans to replace Beales and ensure that there is a strong and varied retail offering in its place.”

 High business rates partly to blame

Beales is one of three department store chains that have gone into administration – along with with House of Fraser and Debenhams – having reported a loss of £3.1m for the last financial year.

KPMG are trying to find a buyer for the remaining 11 shops in a bid to ‘deliver a sustainable business model for the future’.

It said: “The joint administrators of the Beales department store chain have confirmed that they remain in active discussions with interested parties regarding a going concern sale of a number of stores.

“Unfortunately, however, no offers have been received in respect of selling all 23 stores as a going concern.

“As a result, the joint administrators are now in the process of developing plans with store directors and management teams to implement the closure of 12 stores.

“There is currently no intention to implement closure plans for the remaining 11 stores, which will all continue to operate as usual until an outcome with regards to a sale of the business is clarified.”

When the administration process began KPMG’s Will Write blamed ‘the impact of high rents and rates exacerbated by disappointing trading over the Christmas period’.

But Beales’ Chief Executive Tony Brown criticised local councils for failing to help High Street retailers, saying they ‘really don’t care’.

“Landlords – not all of them but predominantly most of them – have been helpful and they see a long term. But in a number of our stores, I pay three or four times more business rates than I do rent.”

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