Department store Beales collapsed into administration in March 2020 in a huge blow to Southport but the store is set to reopen in an £800,000 investment that will create 40 jobs. Andrew Brown reports
Beales department store will reopen in Southport this summer after closing its doors in March 2020 and will create 40 new jobs for the town.
In an investment worth around £800,000, the landmark Lord Street building, part of the historic Wayfarers Arcade, will be given a whole new look by owner New Start 2020 and headed up by Tony Brown, chief executive of the former Beales.
Building work and shop refitting is currently going on behind the doors to get it ready for the reopening in August. Beales collapsed into administration in March 2020, the same month that Debenhams also closed in a double blow to Lord Street. Beales operated 26 stores at the time.
Last year, Tony opened Beales in Poole in Dorset, followed by Peterborough earlier this year with Southport due to be his third store. Making Southport the firm’s third venture is a huge vote of confidence in the future of retail for the busy seaside resort.
It will undoubtedly act as a catalyst for other businesses to open in Southport, with the news being revealed in the same week that Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group announced its planned conversion of the Grand Casino building further along Lord Street into a luxury hotel and wedding venue.
Tony said: “This is a new concept for Beales, one which we have launched in our stores in Poole and Peterborough where it has proved to be really successful. I honestly believe that customers want to see a local department store opening in Southport again.
The old department store model is broken, because it was too costly to maintain. We now have a new model which is predominantly concession driven. Around 90% of the new store will be concessions, and we have some exciting brands coming in.
“We had a queue of brands wanting to come to Southport, which is really positive. We have most of them already signed up, but are looking for a furniture concession to join us. We will try to offer a different experience to shoppers while also providing something for different age profiles.
“One concession joining us will be Forever New, a very popular Australian brand, which is really exciting for us. We will have the biggest footwear outlet in Southport, and will also open a new chiropody shop and treatment rooms with state of the art equipment.
In Time watch repairs, which is based in Southport, will have a section here. We are looking to open a cafe downstairs, enjoying the beautiful views into Wayfarers Arcade, so people don’t have to climb up to the top floor where it used to be. We will be selling perfumes here, but not cosmetics any more.”
Other concessions will include: fashion; homewear; bathroom accessories; luggage; electrical; seasonal; and many more. Brands will include: Forever New, Brakeburn, Crew, Craghoppers, Regatta, Caribou, Harveys Luggage and others.
“In both stores we have opened we have reached out to local brands, and we are doing the same with Southport,” added Tony. “If there is someone out there with a really good idea, maybe someone working from home making gifts or gift foods and they want somewhere to start up, then we can support them to do that.
“In Peterborough we have someone selling Bees Wrap, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to clingfilm. We also have someone selling Mexican tequila and gift foods. We encourage local businesses to come in and give it a go.”
The new store will provide some welcome employment opportunities in Southport. Tony said: “We should have around 40 people working here when we open, a mixture between full-time and part-time. We want to give priority to people we know and people who have worked with us before, and we are delighted to see some of our former employees coming back to join us again.
“Our store manager when we open, Steve Williams, used to be the deputy here. We will have some new blood with us as well. We are also backing the Government’s Kick Start Scheme, so we can give young people the opportunity to gain some experience and learn all about retail.
“Once we open, we are looking forward to seeing more new businesses coming into Wayfarers Arcade. I think we will become a catalyst for even more growth and investment in Southport, I certainly hope so.”
Some other positive changes are already taking place in the town. A total of £1m in Town Deal acceleration last year has supported the Southport BID-led conversion of Lord Street into ‘a boulevard of light’ with 300,000 lights installed by local firm IllumiDex UK.
Money from the Town Deal acceleration fund has also supported the transformation of Southport Market into a new food, drink and events venue that is due to open next week.