A DEPARTMENT store chain with a branch in Oxfordshire is at risk of collapsing.

Beales has warned that it could go into administration if it fails to find a last-minute buyer, with about 1,000 jobs at risk nationally.

The Bournemouth-based retailer is understood to be hopeful that a rescue deal can be secured, but could still be forced to enter insolvency.

It has 22 stores nationwide, including one in Chipping Norton's High Street.

Chief executive Tony Brown told Bournemouth newspaper The Daily Echo that the retailer has struggled with difficult trading conditions and criticised the 'lunacy' of high business rates.

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He said: "We are confident that we have a solution for the business that will create a stronger if leaner Beales.

"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.

"We're going through a process and we hope to be able to restructure the business for a profitable future."

Last month, Beales hired advisers at KPMG to lead a strategic review in order to find a profitable future for the business.

The company is currently in talks with landlords over rent reductions and it has been reported that the firm has also spoken with two potential buyers, including a venture capital investor and a rival retail business.

Beales in Abingdon, which employed about 30 people at Fairacres Retail Park, closed in January 2017.

It is the latest department store chain to suffer, with Debenhams closing 19 stores this month including the Witney branch, which shut yesterday.