BEALES is expanding with the acquisition of two department stores it failed to take over in the summer.

The move comes after chief executive Tony Brown took control of the business in a management buyout last month.

He revived the bid to buy Palmers stores in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

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The Bournemouth-based department store chain called off its original bid to take over the East Anglian stores in July, citing the “challenging retail environment”.

Mr Brown told the Daily Echo: “Since I took control of the business, I went back to Palmers and asked them if they were still interested and we had a marathon legal session – 18 hours – and we thrashed out a deal, exchanged contracts and completed the deal.

“We have added the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft stores to the portfolio, bringing it up to 23 stores.”

The deal was negotiated within a week of instructing law firm Blake Morgan, he said.

Mr Brown said of the earlier takeover attempt: “The issue was around the property deal and we’ve been able to short circuit the property deal and buy the assets of the business.”

He said there would be some savings made by closing the central support functions in the newly acquired stores.

He added: “There’s additional profitability because the stores make a positive contribution, so we can improve on that contribution because we don’t have so many overheads.“It’s looking for opportunity in a difficult market. Sometimes it’s the best time to look for an opportunity when the market’s challenging.”

Department stores have been under pressure in recent months. House of Fraser was rescued from administration earlier this year but with store closures planned. Debenhams and Marks & Spencer have also revealed store closure plans, with M&S already having shut its Bournemouth branch.

But although Beales’ original flagship store is near a House of Fraser and a Debenhams in Bournemouth, Mr Brown said most of its branches did not face similar competition.

“We concentrate on market towns.

“We don’t concentrate on cities, so we are one the only department store in the majority of towns in which we trade – so we can respond to the customer need in that town,” he said.