DEPARTMENT store chain Beales collapsed into administration this week after announcing earlier this month that its Hexham store would close.

Beales appointed administrators on Monday morning, throwing the future of the department store chain into doubt after almost 140 years of trading.

The company’s chief executive Tony Brown said there were still “active talks with various parties” going on about the future of the business and he hoped it could be saved. About 1,050 jobs at the 23 stores are now at risk, as administrators from KPMG have stepped in.

Although the Hexham store, known as Hexham Outlet Centre since last year, had already been earmarked for closure, the landlord of the property on Fore Street, Buccleuch Property, had said it was still its intention to consider Beales as part of the future of the site when it was redeveloped.

It plans to create a mixed-use site that will combine retail, leisure and residential property.

Beales is the latest high street name to suffer from soaring business rates and the public deserting shopping centres in record numbers.

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

“With the impact of high rents and rates exacerbated by disappointing trading over the Christmas period, and extensive discussions around additional investment proving unsuccessful, there were no other available options but to place the company into administration,” said Will Wright, joint administrator at KPMG. Mr Brown said before the administration that the retailer had struggled with difficult trading conditions and he criticised what he called the “lunacy” of high business rates.

Gift cards will still be redeemable as long as the stores continue to trade, and customers will still be able to exchange and refund products. Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Beales falling into administration is the latest example of traditional high street retailers struggling to adapt to changing shopping habits.

“While stores remain open, your consumer rights should be unaffected, but we would advise anyone with Beales gift vouchers to consider spending them as soon as possible.

“If you are planning to shop in Beales and intend to buy something worth more than £100, make sure you use a credit card as you’ll be able to make a claim against your credit card company to recover the money if anything goes wrong.”