A MAJOR Winchester department store has today announced it is closing. Beales in the Brooks Centre has placed 'Closing Down - everything must go!' notices in the windows of its large two-storey shop in the centre. The store will close on August 1. It has been the centre's flagship store and has operated in Winchester since the Brooks opened in 1992. Today the staff and manager declined to comment. No-one was available for comment this afternoon at the head office in Bournemouth. It was unclear exactly how many jobs will go, but as well as shopfloors selling clothing and household goods there is also a cafe. The company's financial problems have been well-publicised. Last month it secured a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with its creditors. It told the landlords of the Winchester branch that the rent must be drastically reduced, saying it was one of 14 stores which were unsustainable without reductions. Richard Barnes, 51, who works for Hampshire County Council in Winchester said he was saddened by the closure. Mr Barnes said: “I think it is going to kill it (the Brooks), it is one of the biggest shops that brings the names in. “I work in Winchester and used to always come down to Beales and have a wander, it is a shame.” Another shopper who asked not to be named said: “I think it is a disaster.” The Brooks management was asked about the negotiations over rent but in a statement today said: "We note the closure of Beales and although we were aware of the retailer's decision, it is an end to an era locally. "We now very much look forward to announcing‎ the plans which we are launching for the scheme and the future occupiers of the Centre which will be unveiled in due course." There was a mixed reaction from the local business community. Catherine Turness, executive director of Winchester Business Improvement District, said: "Their closure doesn’t come as a huge surprise given the recent correspondence on the CVA. It is always disappointing to hear of a business departing the city but I see this as a potential opportunity for The Brooks to attract an anchor store to the centre, which compliments their rebrand and neighbouring businesses." James Byrnes, Cabinet member for economy at Winchester City Council, said: “It is a blow to Winchester, it is disappointing when any shop in Winchester decides it is not going to trade anymore, we depend on all of them in the city centre. “I would be interested in who decided to stop their operations here. What’s important for me is to understand the reasons why and find out if it is something we and our partners could have done anything about.” He added he wants to find out more about the closure and said the firm had not made any queries or complaints to the council.