DEPARTMENT store chain Beales has warned it could collapse into administration if it fails to find a last-minute buyer, putting around 1,000 jobs at risk.

The Bournemouth-based retailer, which has a store in Hexham which changed its name last year to Hexham Outlet Centre, is understood to be hopeful that a rescue deal can be secured, but could still be forced to enter insolvency.

The chain, which has 22 stores nationwide, is the latest retailer to feel the pressure of soaring business rates and declining high street footfall.

Last month, Beales hired advisers at KPMG to lead a strategic review in order to find a profitable future for the business.

The company is currently in talks with landlords over rent reductions and it has been reported that the firm has also spoken with two potential buyers, including a venture capital investor and a rival retail business.

Hexham Outlet Centre confirmed on its Facebook page last week that it planned to close, although it has not confirmed when this will happen. 

Nick Waugh, commercial property director at Buccleuch Property, the landlord of the Beales premises on Fore Street, said: “We continue to support and work closely with Beales alongside the council whilst discussions progress regarding the redevelopment of the site.

"Our vision for the future is to create a mixed-use site that will combine retail, leisure and residential property.

“Once we have a clearer idea of the potential layout for the site, we will commence the planning application process.

"Beales will be able to continue trading during this period until consents are granted and the redevelopment work can begin. It is very much our intention to consider Beales as part of the future retail offering.”