BEALES is expanding again by acquiring former Marks & Spencer in Hampshire, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The Bournemouth-based department store chain said it hoped to open at Fareham Shopping Centre in the second week of November.

The premises has been empty since it fell victim to a raft of M&S closures in April 2018.

Beales closed its own Hampshire branch, at the Brooks Centre in Winchester, in 2016.

Beales’ owner and chief executive, Tony Brown, said: “Beales are pleased to announce that we have taken a new lease on the ex-M&S store in Fareham, Hampshire.

“We will be operating from 28,0000 square feet on the ground floor and hope to open in the second week of November in time for the busy period.”

The store will stock a full range of Beales lines with the exception of cosmetics. Its stock will include fashions, electricals, kitchenware and gifts.

Mr Brown went from running Beales to owning it in a management buyout a year ago.

He said: “In the year since we completed the management buyout, we will have opened three new stores, which displays our confidence in the trading strategy.

“We are in a very challenging retail environment with constant cost growth. We believe that working with all stakeholders and understanding the customer’s expectations in the towns in which we trade, bricks and mortar still have a place and that the high street can adapt and thrive.

“It gives me great personal pleasure to be opening in Fareham as I am a local boy with my wider family still living in Gosport. I know my mum will be pleased to use her Beales card.”

Beales recently revealed a £3m loss for the year to March 31 2019. But it said one-off expenses – including the cost of the management buyout – disguised the “big achievement” of keeping its sales figures steady.

Mr Brown said of the Fareham deal: “It shows confidence in what we’re doing. Despite the results, we have confidence in what we’re doing.”