Department store closes 21 branches due to coronavirus

Beales in Beccles. Picture: Reece Hanson

Beales in Beccles. - Credit: Reece Hanson

A much-loved department store chain which went into administration in January is closing its final stores after retail was hit by coronavirus concerns.

All remaining Beales department stores will shut their doors for good from Thursday, March 19.

Two of the chain’s 23 stores have already closed, with the Great Yarmouth branch closing on March 15, and the Hexham branch closing on February 24.

Its remaining shops, which include stores in Beccles, Lowestoft and Diss, will now be closed two weeks ahead of schedule due to the “unprecedented circumstances” of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the chain’s administrator KPMG, which said the impact of Covid-19 on the retail environment had meant trading could no longer be supported.

READ MORE: ‘We can no longer ask you to come’: Owners of Farmyard restaurant’s sad closure over coronavirusWill Wright, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said: “Whilst it is regrettable that we have had to take this decision, especially given the fantastic support that the staff have provided to the business and the administrators since our appointment, the impact of these unprecedented circumstances has left us with no alternative option.

“We will be working with employees to ensure they have all the necessary information to submit claims to the Redundancy Payments Service, together with details of who to contact for any help and support they may require.”

Staff will continue to work until close of business on March 21 to “help box-up residual stock and assist with various other closure issues”, the administrators confirmed.

READ MORE: Department store chain Beales collapses into administrationThe majority of Beales’ 1,000 employees will then be made redundant, though all salaries will be paid up to and including the date of their redundancy.

A spokesperson for the company’s administrators said: “While this is two weeks ahead of the administrators’ original schedule, the impact of Covid-19 on the retail environment has meant that trading can no longer be supported.”

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In January Beales entered administration after finding trading to be “incredibly tough in recent times,” blaming high rents, reduced footfall on the high street and internet shopping.

Beales had initially planned to close 12 of its stores, but at the end of February announced all of its stores were to close in eight weeks time.

Other businesses expressed interested in buying or refinancing the company, however the company said “this process did not secure any solvent solutions”.