ONE of Britain’s oldest department stores has warned that it could collapse into administration.

Beales, which has a branch in Worthing, said 22 stores and 1,000 jobs were at stake if it cannot find a buyer.

The firm is negotiating with its landlords to try and agree rent reductions.

It is also in talks with two potential buyers - a rival retailer and a venture capital investor, the BBC understands.

Chief Executive Tony Brown led a management buyout of the firm in 2018.

He said the firm was struggling with difficult trading and the “lunacy” of high business rates – and that he hoped the business would emerge “stronger but leaner”.

He said pre-Christmas trading had been disappointing.

Mr Brown said: “We are confident that we have a solution for the business that will create a stronger if leaner Beales.”

The company has filed notice at the High Court of its intention to appoint administrators. The move gives an insolvent business protection from its creditors while the administrators seek a sustainable future for the company.

Mr Brown said he understood the news would be distressing for the company’s staff. The company employs around 1,300 people directly, with another 300 working at concessions in its shops.

“We’re going through a process and we hope to be able to restructure the business for a profitable future,” he added.