POOLE had one of the best-performing Beales stores in the run-up to Christmas, while Bournemouth’s was among the worst.

The department store chain has recorded a “creditable” three per cent rise in sales, but its boss warned that the environment on the high street was still “very challenging”.

Chief executive Tony Brown said: “Poole had an excellent Christmas.”

He said the roadworks taking place in Poole town centre had been less disruptive than those on Bournemouth’s Spur Road.

“The Hunger Hill roadworks, I think, have been managed very well, I have to say, by the council,” he said.

“Poole is in a shopping centre and they’ve done a lot of work there and lots of brands have gone in, so Poole did very well.

“Poole was one of our best performing stores, Bournemouth one of the worst.”

He said sales across the business were up three per cent in the four weeks ending at the start of January.

“To be three per cent up is a creditable performance but it’s on the back of a very challenging environment. There’s a lot of uncertainty on Brexit and the economy and so on which we just have to keep on breaking through,” he said.

Sales performance varied between store departments

“Fashion was still very soft. House wares, linens and all those sorts of areas were very strong along with toys and gifts,” said Mr Brown.

Small electrical appliances had also done well, as had handbags and accessories.

An upmarket ‘coffee bar’ selling coffee machines had proved popular.

“They go for up to £1,600 and it’s going very well for us. There’s a market there for the better machines,” said Mr Brown.

Beales closed its retail website under previous management. Mr Brown, who revived the site, said the current sales figures were still based on sales in stores.

“Once you’ve sealed off a website, it’s very hard to revive it,” he added.

“We are seeing growth online but it’s not material enough to affect overall sales yet. We’re still two years away from a good online presence,” he said.

Mr Brown took control of the business last October in a management buyout backed by private equity. He then completed a deal to buy two Palmers stores in East Anglia.

The East Anglian stores had a good website which would be used as the basis for a merged site in around three weeks’ time, said Mr Brown,

Beales held a one-night sales event at all 23 stores at the start of November, which was described as the most successful in its history.

Mr Brown said: “Summer was poor for us because it was so hot. The events we held in November made up for the lack of progress in the summer and the strong Christmas has made up for a lack of progress in November.

“Once again we had great execution by our staff. We have a team of great buyers who are constantly searching for products. They’ve done a tremendous job.”