Saffron Walden Westgate department store sold to new owners

SAFFRON Walden’s department store is set for a takeover – 10 months after opening.

Anglia Co-operative Society announced this week that is has reached a conditional multi-million pound agreement for Beales to acquire its Westgate department store business.

The deal, worth an initial �7.5 million, is likely to be complete by the end of May and covers 19 of the society’s 23 Westgate stores – including the store at Saffron Walden.

Anglia Co-operative chief executive John Chillcott said: “Beales are a long-established department store operator and combining the respective store portfolios into one enlarged group makes strong commercial sense for both parties.

“It improves job security and opportunities for the 900 staff employed in the 19 Westgate stores covered by the deal – including the 30 people employed at Saffron Walden.”

Members’ share accounts remain invested in Anglia Co-operative. The company will also have a significant investment interest in the enlarged Beales department store group and will continue to develop its Co-operative food, funerals, travel, optical and AHF furniture businesses.

Mr Chillcott added: “In difficult economic times the society is pleased to have secured the future of the Westgate department stores and anticipates minimal disruption and change for customers both during and after the transaction.”

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The deal was put together over nine months by Beales’ chief executive Tony Brown who said that it “secures the future” for company employees of both parties.

“It was a very collaborative deal and both sides are delighted,” he told the Reporter.

Mr Brown added that the Saffron Walden Westgate store will be rebranded to fall in line with Beales at “some point in the future” but said that there would be little impact on customers.

“Westgate is quite new to Saffron Walden and has no in-bred loyalty yet so I don’t think there will be a problem. We are a premium department store and we will look to bring that to the store and the town.”