BEALES has appointed administrators this morning, throwing the future of the department store chain into doubt after almost 140 years of trading.

The news comes barely two months after the company opened a store in Fareham.

The company's boss said there were still “active talks with various parties” going on about the future of the business and he hoped it could be saved.

KPMG has been appointed to handle the administration.

Beales stores are continuing to trade, although “Closing down sale” signs will appear later this week.

Chief executive and owner Tony Brown told the Daily Echo: “We’re still in active talks with various parties and those talks continue while we go into the administration process.

“I’m still confident of a positive outcome.”

Beales has 22 stores and around 1,300 staff across the country.

As well as disappointing Christmas trading, it has faced rising costs and high business rates – with its Bournemouth branch alone attracting a rates bill of £440,000 a year.

Mr Brown has previously said that the Fareham store has been trading well and could be a model for profitable branches.

Sources said the appearance of closing down sale signs would make the situation look “bleaker than it is” as KPMG works to find a sustainable future for the stores.

The Beales website was taken down for "site maintenance" ahead of the news.

Beales was founded in Bournemouth by John Elmes Beale in 1881.