She will be joining from Littlewoods home shopping catalogue LX Direct, where she is clothing and footwear trading director.
Santell replaces Tim Rathbone, who left in August, and will be a member of the Beales board. An experienced buyer, she kicked off her career in buying at Burton Group in 1989. She has also worked for House of Fraser and Next.
Beales chief executive Allan Allkins said: 'Hilary's considerable experience in womenswear and retail makes her particularly well qualified to continue to develop and improve our product range.'