Anglia Regional Co-operative Society has sold its chain of Westgate department stores to Beales.
The £7.5m deal has added 19 outlets to the existing department store estate to bring it to 32 stores in total.
They operate under the Beales, Broadbents & Boothroyds, Whitakers and Denners names, while the Westgate stores will trade under the Beales banner, and will be rebranded over the next 18 months.
The move means that Beales has overnight become one of the biggest department store chains in the country. Chief executive Tony Brown described the acquisition as "probably the biggest event in the history of the company".
The previously ARC-owned stores are in Abingdon, Beccles, Bishop Auckland, Chipping Norton, Cinderford, Diss, Harrogate, Keighley, King's Lynn, Lowestoft, Mansfield, Peterborough, Redcar, Saffron Waldon, Skegness, Skipton, Spalding, St Neots and Wisbech.
"Combining the respective store portfolios into one enlarged group, makes strong commercial sense for both businesses and secures a substantial amount of local employment," said Beales in a statement issued yesterday.
The Westgate stores employ 900 people, most of whom will transfer to Beales, bringing its workforce total to around 2,500.
The company says that it will be making a number of changes during the next few months to its new stores, spending £1.2m in the first year on refits.
The deal was financed by ARCS through a £2.5m loan and a share issue. It will also run four furniture concessions in selected stores.