“I THOUGHT long and hard about whether I wanted to put myself at the forefront again,” admits Tony Brown.

After his first, five-year stint as boss of Beales, he had taken jobs with other retailers, submitted a bid to buy BHS – and attempted to retire.

But the 60-year-old had kept his home in the New Forest and had returned to Beales as a non-executive director.

Since his departure, the business had been acquired by its major landlord, Andrew Perloff, for just £1.2m. The idea of bringing back Mr Brown was that he could add some more retail experience to the board.

Not long after his return, executive chairman Stuart Lyons stood down for health reasons and Mr Brown was offered the top job.

“It had been through a tumultuous four years after I had been away. It’d had a difficult four years, culminating in the CVA,” he said.

The CVA, or company voluntary agreement, was the means by which Beales sought to secure its future by getting rent cuts on loss-making stores.

“The business has its challenges and those challenges were manifested over the last four years. However, what I would say is Stuart’s stewardship during the CVA was a tremendous help to the business,” said Mr Brown.

He found a business which, he said, had “moved away from who its core customer was”.

Its buyers were good, but the stock was not right, he said. A glass paperweight retailing for £100 was never going to be a best-seller.

“The buyers are now buying the right products. We’ve taken the difficult decision around product that was just cluttering our stock rooms and we’ve reduced that and cleared it out,” he said.

“I’m very excited about Christmas. The ranges the guys have put together are very good.”

Beales had also ceased to be an online retailer, shutting down its “transactional” website, which is due to return next month.

“We were successfully building an omni-channel presence and we walked away from that,” he said.

After his first stint at Beales, Mr Brown became interim MD of Peacock & Jane Norman, before becoming chief operating officer at 99p Stores, where he advised selling the business to Poundland. “It was probably one of the most protracted sales there’s ever been,” he said, after the Competitions and Markets Authority got involved.

He worked in Sydney for Speciality Fashion Group, and also put together a bid to buy the struggling BHS, where he had once been retail director under Sir Philip Green.

“He had someone in the background so I had to get my skates on. We put together a bid within three weeks, put it to Philip and as history shows, he went with the other bid,” he said.

He believes his scheme “would have had a better chance” of succeeding. “We would have kept the investment in the business and not taken any money out,” he said.

He was “semi-retired” when the top job at Beales came up but was drawn to return.

“Bournemouth has got something inside me. It was my first CEO role and we did some good stuff. We did some stuff we wouldn’t do again, too.

“I think it’s very exciting time to be in Bournemouth.”