THIRTY-two staff have been made redundant at Beales as administrators try to keep the department store chain afloat.

At the same time, the Daily Echo has learned that a fresh bid is being made to turn the upper floors of Beales’ flagship Bournemouth store into flats in a bid to make it viable.

The 32 staff who have been laid off represent nearly half the head office team at Old Christchurch Road, where Beales was founded in 1881.

Beales’ owner and chief executive Tony Brown said: “I was at the meeting. It’s like losing part of your family.

“The business is run as a family business and it’s always difficult to say goodbye. The reality of running a retail business these days dictates that you have to do something.”

Beales fell into administration almost a fortnight ago, putting 23 stores and 1,300 jobs at risk.

The landlord of the Bournemouth store is expected to submit a plan to turn several storeys into homes. A similar bid to turn the top four floors into 76 flats – leaving Beales with four storeys including the basement – was rejected by planners in 2016 after Beales itself opposed it.

Mr Brown said: “There’s an application from the landlord which has my wholehearted support.”

The store has been asking councils for a discount on its business rates, which come to a crippling £440,000 a year for its Bournemouth store alone. Mr Brown held a meeting with BCP Council leader Vikki Slade this week.

“It was a candid but productive meeting,” he said.

“At the end of the day I’m trying to save an iconic business in Bournemouth. I think they’re genuinely trying to find a solution that doesn’t set a precedent.”

A clearance sale is still on at Beales branches, but signs saying “Store closing” have been taken down.

The signs were removed after an MP and a member of the Scottish Parliament complained about the chain’s Perth store advertising a “closing down” sale when no store closures had been confirmed.

A statement from KPMG confirmed the redundancies made on Thursday. With the business insolvent, the staff have been advised to make claims to the government’s redundancy compensation scheme.

“The joint administrators of Beales confirm that all of the stores remain open, and will continue to trade while discussions with a number of interested parties regarding a going concern sale of the business remain ongoing,” the statement said.

“Staff across the store network continue to be retained to assist the joint administrators with trading.

“However, it is with regret that the joint administrators today confirm 32 redundancies primarily at the Beales head office in Bournemouth. The joint administrators will be providing support to those affected over the coming days.”