DEPARTMENT store company Beales has put itself up for sale.

The owner of one of Kendal’s longest-established and best-loved shops - Beales on Finkle Street - says it is looking at refinancing options amid tough conditions on the high street.

The three-floor fashion, beauty and homewares store - formerly JR Taylor and originally Musgroves - has been a fixture in Kendal for 160 years.

Opened as a draper’s shop back in January 1859, it sells everything from Levi’s jeans to Chanel N°5 perfume, lingerie to kitchenware.

The store was bought by Beales, the Bournemouth-based chain, 20 years ago. It has 22 stores.

Beales says it has launched a formal sales process as part of a strategic and financial review being led by KPMG, though a sale remains one option under consideration.

The company said it "continues to acclimatise to the ever-changing landscape and challenges of the retail market".

It is seeking investment to "deliver a sustainable business model for the future" including cost-saving measures and a refocus on homewares, small domestic appliances, fashion and shoes.

It is reportedly looking at a small number of store closures and moves to slash rents. The group said it also wants to look at buying sites to expand a format that has seen early successes in its new Fareham branch, in Hampshire.

Sarah Williams, manager of Kendal BID, which promotes the town centre, described Beales as "part of the make-up of Kendal" and "incredibly important" for the town.

She said the company had been in a similar situation before, when a management buyout took place.

"Let's be positive, they are not saying they are closing it," she said. "I think Kendal is the second-top performing Beales store so we've got to remain positive.

"It needs a lot of investment.

"If it did get new owners and remained as Beales, they might decide to invest."

Mrs Williams said "if the worst came to the worst" and the Kendal store closed, there would be no shortage of major retailers interested in the prime location. She added: "Fingers crossed it's not going to close."

Mayor of Kendal Cllr Alvin Finch said: "Hopefully it can be bought by a buyer who will keep it running and keep employment for all the staff."

As the Gazette went to press yesterday, no one from Beales was available for comment.