BEALES boss Tony Brown is to leave the chain next month, it has been announced.

Mr Brown, who joined the department store firm in 2008, has overseen its expansion from 11 to 33 locations, as well as navigating it through the worst recession seen on the high street.

The expansion included the acquisition of 19 stores from the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society in May 2011 It is believed, but not confirmed, that he will be Edinburgh Woollen Mill-owned Peacocks’ next MD.

Mr Brown, who leaves Beales on February 8, has also been involved with the town centre Business Improvement District as chairman.

He told the Daily Echo yesterday that highlights of his time included being a part of the town’s retail scene and overseeing Beales’ expansion.

“We’ve just had one of our most profitable Christmases and the Bournemouth store in particular had its best Christmas in years,” he said.

“There are lots of positive messages coming out of Beales.”

Mr Brown was retail director of BHS for more than seven years before joining Beales and he has also worked as operations director at Somerfield.

He has served as chairman of Dorset Employment and Skills Board.

Mr Brown added: “I joined in 2008, so it’s four-and-a-half years. The business has changed from 11 to 33 stores in that time.

“I’m sad to be leaving Bournemouth as I’m a local person and it’s proven to be a fabulous town.

“My extracurricular activities as chairman of the BID I have thoroughly enjoyed. We achieved a lot at Christmas. Five years is about right as a CEO. Every business needs new thinking from time to time and an opportunity has presented itself to me.

“The highlights have been the growth of the business, riding out one of the worst retail recessions known to man, where many bigger businesses have fallen by the wayside over the years, and introducing a loyalty scheme for Beales has also been a big plus.

“Having the opportunity to be part of the town with the BID has also been a highlight.”

Beales’ chief financial officer, Michael Hitchcock, will replace Mr Brown, who plans to continue living in Dorset.

“I’m leaving it in very safe hands. The business is well set up to provide profitability in the future,” said Mr Brown.