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Beales boss says Palmers’ heritage in East Anglian towns will not be lost in takeover deal

Palmers department store in Lowestoft. Photo: James Carr.

Palmers department store in Lowestoft. Photo: James Carr.

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The company bidding to take over a historic East Anglian department store says its name will live on if the deal goes through.

Palmers department store in Market Place, Great Yarmouth. Palmers department store in Market Place, Great Yarmouth.

Beales and its parent company Portnard are in talks to acquire the share capital of Palmers department stores in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft – the 180-year-old family firm’s two remaining branches.

But the Bournemouth-based group, which has 21 stores including in Beccles, Lowestoft and Diss, has pledged to honour the firm’s heritage in the towns.

Beales chief executive Tony Brown said the company will aim to make the transition for Palmers’ 170 staff – who have been informed of the plans – and customers as “seamless” as possible.

“Nothing will change in the immediate term from a customer perspective,” he said.

“We will sit down with customer listening groups to see what we could do more or less of. We are a department store chain which specialises in market towns, so we think we understand the customer, but every site is different.

“As far as shop staff are concerned, they will not see any effect on their terms and conditions.”

If the sale is made, Mr Brown said the Palmers name would remain above the shop doors in Lowestoft and Yarmouth “for the time being”. He quoted examples of previous stores acquired by Beales, including in Perth, Scotland, which had retained their original names alongside the group’s brand.

“We value the heritage of the buildings we buy,” he said.

This year has already seen the closure of Palmers’ Fashion Store in Bury St Edmunds, with management citing tough trading conditions, while its Homewares store has also shut to make way for a redevelopment project.

Bruce Sturrock, chairman of Palmers, said turnover at the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft stores had remained strong despite trouble on the high street.

“We are very pleased that we found a solution that ensures the future of our stores in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft and secure the jobs for the majority of our staff,” he said.

Beales grew significantly in 2011 following a £7.5m deal to buy 19 department stores from Anglia Regional Co-operative Society, which still owns food shops in Norfolk and Suffolk. The Palmers takeover is expected to be finalised by August.

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