A FORMER boss of Beales has made a dramatic return to the department store chain’s top job.
Tony Brown, who was chief executive of the Bournemouth-based company from 2008-13, says he expects to restore to the business to profit in the next year.
Beales was a public limited company when Mr Brown ran it, but was heavily in debt when it was bought by investor Andrew Perloff in 2015 for just £1.2million.
The company closed 10 loss-making stores last year and reached a company voluntary agreement (CVA) which allowed it to negotiate reductions to its rent bill on many of its sites.
Mr Brown confirmed he had “regained the helm” of the company.
“The company is on a much more stable footing following the CVA and we are making plans to return the business to profitability, which I expect to do in the next year,” he said.
He added: “The focus will be on returning to profit and a huge push on understanding our customers.
“We have a very strong customer base and we need to look at the demographics of where we trade. We need to understand better what we buy and what we sell and who we trade with in our specific towns and cater more specifically to those markets.”
Last year, Beales’ flagship Bournemouth store faced a challenge from its own landlords, who wanted to turn the top four floors of the building into 76 flats. Planning permission was refused by Bournemouth council after the proposal attracted 7,000 objections from the public.
Mr Brown said the company was now working with its landlord, adding: “There are no plans to exit Bournemouth or the building.”
During his time at Beales, Mr Brown saw it more than double in size with the purchase of 19 department stores from Anglia Regional Co-Operative Society (ARCS) in 2011. The move was later blamed by current owner Andrew Perloff for the chain’s debt problems.
Mr Brown was retail director at BHS before coming to Beales in 2008. After leaving Beales, he was interim managing director of Peacock & Jane Norman, chief operating officer of 99p Stores and MD of Experience Retail Ltd.
He then worked for Specialty Fashion Group in Sydney, Australia, before returning to Beales as a non-executive director in March.
He said: “I’m delighted to be back and looking forward to taking Beales forward.
“It’s great to be back in Bournemouth.”
No announcement has been made about the future of Beales’ executive chairman Stuart Lyons,who led a ‘Back to Beales’ campaign after the company was taken back into private hands. Mr Lyons said in February that the business had made good progress on a turnaround plan while not yet returning to profit.
The history of Beales goes back to 1881, when John Elmes Beale opened a shop called Fancy Fair on the site where the current Bournemouth store now stands.