THE department store Beales could go into administration this week, it has been reported.

The business, which opened a branch in Fareham in November, has not commented on reports that a board meeting on Monday could pave the way for the move.

Sky News said the meeting could decide to appoint KPMG as administrator for the Bournemouth-based business.

It was revealed a week ago that Beales, which employs more than 1,300 people in 22 stores, would go into administration unless it found a buyer or a new source of finance.

Chief executive and owner Tony Brown said then that the company could be “restructured for a profitable future” and that the business could emerge “stronger if leaner”.

He said last week: “It is difficult trading on the high street. The difficulties are exacerbated by the lunacy of the business rates system. We pay £440,000 a year in business rates on our Bournemouth store. You can have a sensible conversation with the landlord but it's impossible to have a sensible conversation with the council.

“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.”

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

He said that the store’s newest branch – in the former Marks and Spencer site at Fareham Shopping Centre – had traded well, in contrast to stores in Bournemouth and Poole.

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

In 2016, it won creditors’ backing for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) which enabled it to negotiate rent cuts and close some loss-making stores.

Last October, the company revealed it had made a £3million loss, but said one-off costs had disguised steady sales.