Department store chain Beales has warned it could fall into administration if it fails to find a last-minute buyer, putting around 1,000 jobs at risk.
The Bournemouth-based store is still hopeful a rescue deal can be secured, but faces a real risk of insolvency.
The chain, with 22 branches nationwide, is the latest retailer to feel the pressure of soaring business rates and declining high street footfall amid an increasingly brutal period for the sector.
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 in talks with landlords over rent reductions and has reportedly spoken with two potential buyers – including a venture capital investor and a rival retail business.
Chief executive Tony Brown told local newspaper The Daily Echo that the retailer has struggled with difficult trading conditions and criticised the "lunacy" of high business rates.
He said: "We are confident that we have a solution for the business that will create a stronger if leaner Beales.
"We hope to have a stronger business at the end of the process. I can't predict which stores will stay and which stores won't because it all depends on landlords and local government.
"We're going through a process and we hope to be able to restructure the business for a profitable future."
The retailer was taken into private ownership by Brown in 2018, 23 years after the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange.
The retailer's uncertain future comes as rival Debenhams pushes ahead with the closure of 19 stores this month, as part of the chain's restructuring process after entering administration last year.
These are the Beales branches at risk:
- Chipping Norton
- St Neots
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