ALL the remaining branches of Beales are closing today after the coronavirus crisis dealt the final blow to the 139-year-old business.

The majority of the chain’s staff – totalling more than 1,000 – will be made redundant on Saturday.

The department store chain went into administration in January, with administrators from KPMG initially looking for a buyer for all or part of the business.

But no buyers were found and even the closing down sale has been brought to a premature halt. It had been hoped that shops would keep going until the start of April.

The news comes as another blow to the town centres of Bournemouth and Poole.

A statement said: “The joint administrators of the Beales department store chain, Will Wright and Steve Absolom from KPMG, have confirmed that all remaining Beales stores will close tomorrow, Thursday, March 19.

 “While this is two weeks ahead of the administrators’ original schedule, the impact of Covid-19 on the retail environment has meant that trading can no longer be supported.

“Staff will continue to work until close of business on March 21 to help box-up residual stock and assist with various other closure issues. Regrettably, the majority of employees will then be made redundant, with all salaries paid up to and including the date of their redundancy.”

Will Wright, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said: “Whilst it is regrettable that we have had to take this decision, especially given the fantastic support that the staff have provided to the business and the administrators since our appointment, the impact of these unprecedented circumstances has left us with no alternative option.

“We will be working with employees to ensure they have all the necessary information to submit claims to the Redundancy Payments Service, together with details of who to contact for any help and support they may require.”

Beales was founded in 1881 on the site of its current Bournemouth store by John Elmes Beale.

Two of the 23 Beales stores – in Hexham and Great Yarmouth – have already closed.