The future of a key Birmingham city centre retail site has again been thrown into uncertainty after the announcement that Beatties store is to close with the loss of 140 jobs.

The move comes as part of a national restructuring programme by the group's new owner, House of Fraser, which will see a further 165 jobs go, including a number in the Midlands.

House of Fraser acquired the Beattie's department store group's 12 shops in August for #69.4 million and began a review of the business.

Beatties in Corporation Street is scheduled to close its doors for the last time in January. It opened only four years ago on the site of the former C&A department store. House of Fraser is now "reviewing a number of options" for the lease on the site, which runs for a further 30 years.

One possibility already floated by retail experts is that the location could be used for a series of niche market outlets.

The take-over put the loss-making Birmingham Beatties - it has lost #7 million since it opened - under threat at once because House of Fraser already has its own department store, formerly known as Rackhams, just a couple of hundred yards away.

About 20 jobs will go at Beatties' headquarters in Wolverhampton and a total of 145 among the other ten branches, although managers say they hope to redeploy some staff, including a number from Birmingham, in other stores.

John Coleman, chief executive of House of Fraser, said: "The decision to close a store is never an easy one, but we feel this is the best course of action given the store's performance and proximity to our existing Birmingham store.

"We will be working hard alongside all staff at the Birmingham Beatties store to seek to redeploy as many members as possible to other areas of the group, " he said.

A Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman said it had great sympathy for those losing their jobs because of the closure.

He said "What is important now for the city centre is that the building remains an integral part of the retail attraction.

"One idea which has been floated in the past is that the building should be turned into a series of niche market retail outlets which would widen the appeal of the city centre and bring back some of the jobs which have been lost."

President of the Black Country Chamber, John Tew, said he regretted the job losses, including those in Wolverhampton, and said "sadly there is almost an inevitability when one business takes over another business that there is a level of rationalisation".

Beatties was founded in 1877 by James Beattie and also has stores in Aylesbury, Birkenhead, Burton, Dudley, Huddersfield, Northampton, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Telford and Worcester.

House of Fraser has 63 stores nationwide, including Birmingham, and has been open for more than 150 years.

* Mr Coleman said House of Fraser would open a new store in Norwich on Wednesday, part of a store-opening programme to add over 660,000 sq ft to the portfolio in the next three years.