THE new owners of Beales are opening a second department store and have an eye on two more.

New Start 2020 bought the brand name last year and reopened its Poole store after the original chain collapsed.

It is planning to reopen the Peterborough branch of Beales in May and could open more.

Tony Brown, who led the original Beales company and is now chief executive of New Start 2020, said: “We’ve certainly got our eye on two others but they’re a long way off.”

Beales boss happy with performance

The Poole store is gearing up to reopen when the current lockdown is due to ease on April 12.

Mr Brown said: “Poole, for the short period it was open before the lockdown, was good.

“We’ve learned a fair few lessons off that under the new way of doing things, which gave us the confidence of being able to do Peterborough without any real additional capital going in because of the way we managed the concessions.”

The new Beales stores rely much more on hosting concessions rather than buying their own stock and running most departments themselves.

“The concession model works a lot better now because we haven’t got a huge amount of back office costs, we haven’t had to employ streams of brand and concession managers and accounts people and all that sort of thing,” said Mr Brown.

“It’s a scaled-down operation. If we do take on any more stores. you don’t increase your back office costs at all.”

The Poole store has hosted a number of local brands among its concessions. “Those brands have done well in Poole and have asked if they can go to Peterborough as well,” said Mr Brown.

News that Beales would open in Peterborough came at the same time John Lewis announced it would close its store in the town.

Mr Brown said of the Poole store’s prospects: “There are green shoots. I wouldn’t go any further than that.

“It all depends how people return from April 12 onwards, as to whether people will be hesitant coming out or whether they feel more confident. I think it will take about three weeks before people become confident.

“We’ve brought people back off furlough to start getting the store ready but we’re having to almost go back to the level of work we were faced with when we opened in August. There’s so much to change with all the new fashions coming in.

“There’s a huge amount of work to do. The store will look totally different. We’ve even got AstroTurf in front of all the windows and started to bring a real spring feel to it. It’s got to be fresh when they come back.”

Photographs of Beales department store

Mr Brown was disappointed that retailers deemed non-essential were not allowed to open until at least April 12, even though supermarkets and garden centres are selling many of the same products.

Administrators for Beales reveal what happened to stock unsold when stores closed

“We’re just going to have to dust ourselves off and do the best we can in the coming months,” he said.

“What’s done is done and it’s about trying to have a positive mental attitude and having something to offer the customers when they come in. I think the team are doing enough to really attract the customers when they come back.”

Mr Brown has also been left disappointed that the government has not announced reform of the business rates system that hampers bricks and mortar businesses.

Beales is continuing to trade online. “Online is doing okay,” said Mr Brown.

“It’s breaking even form a cost point of view but it keeps the brand alive in the public eye.”

The Naked Coffee outlet in Beales of Poole will not be able to seat customers when the store reopens but will offer takeaway.

Naked Coffee store opens in Beales in Poole

The original Beales business was founded in 1881 but went into administration in early 2020, under the pressure of huge rates bills and historic debt as well as a shift away from high street shopping.