BEALES has appointed administrators today, throwing the future of the department store chain into doubt after almost 140 years of trading.

The stores’ boss said there were still “active talks with various parties” going on about the future of the business and he hoped it could be saved.

The company has appointed KPMG handle to the administration.

Beales stores are continuing to trade, although “Closing down sale” signs will appear later this week.

Chief executive and owner Tony Brown said: “We’re still in active talks with various parties and those talks continue while we go into the administration process.

“I’m still confident of a positive outcome.”

Beales has 22 stores and around 1,300 staff across the country.

As well as disappointing Christmas trading, it has faced rising costs and high business rates – with its Bournemouth branch alone attracting a rates bill of £440,000 a year.

Mr Brown said: “While we’ve had a very positive response from all our landlords, which have included Bournemouth, the conversations with BCP Council are exceptionally difficult as they don’t want to set a precedent. The precedent would be to end this lunacy of business rates."

He added that BCP was "no more difficult than most councils”.

Sources said the appearance of closing down sale signs would make the situation look “bleaker than it is” as KPMG works to find a profitable future for the stores.

The Beales website was taken down for "site maintenance" ahead of the news.

In 2016, Beales won creditors’ backing for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) which enabled it to negotiate rent cuts and close some loss-making stores.

Last October, the company revealed it had made a £3million loss, but said one-off costs had disguised steady sales.

Before Christmas, it appointed KPMG to conduct a review of the business, officially triggering a sales process.

An announcement on the administration was published to the London Stock Exchange this morning, as a small minority of Beales shares are still held by a PLC.