BEALES has appointed administrators this morning, throwing the future of the department store chain into doubt after almost 140 years of trading.

The stores’ boss said there were still “active talks with various parties” going on about the future of the business and he hoped it could be saved.

There is a store in Chipping Norton's High Street.

The company has appointed KPMG handle the administration.

Beales stores are continuing to trade, although “Closing down sale” signs will appear later this week.

Chief executive and owner Tony Brown told our sister paper, the Daily Echo: “We’re still in active talks  with various parties and those talks continue while we go into the administration process.

“I’m still confident of a positive outcome.”

Beales has 22 stores and around 1,300 staff across the country.

As well as disappointing Christmas trading, it has faced rising costs and high business rates – with its Bournemouth branch alone attracting a rates bill of £440,000 a year.

Mr Brown said: “While we’ve had a very positive response from all our landlords, which have included Bournemouth, the conversations with BCP Council are exceptionally difficult as they don’t want to set a precedent. The precedent would be to end this lunacy of business rates."

Sources said the appearance of closing down sale signs would make the situation look “bleaker than it is” as KPMG works to find a profitable future for the stores.

The Beales website was taken down for "site maintenance" ahead of the news.

Beales in Abingdon, which employed about 30 people at Fairacres Retail Park, closed in January 2017.

It is the latest department store to suffer with Debenhams closing 19 stores this month, including its Witney branch, which shut on Wednesday.

Beales have been approached for a comment and the store is expected to be releasing a statement shortly.

Beales was founded in Bournemouth by John Elmes Beale in 1881.

More to follow.