Fashion chains Peacocks and Jaeger have gone into administration – putting more than 4,700 jobs at risk after the latest lockdown hampered efforts to find a buyer.
It came after owner EWM group, controlled by retail billionaire Philip Day, passed a deadline to sell the two brands – which between them have about 500 stores.
The group said it had to take the “desperately difficult” decision despite having been in “constructive discussions” with potential buyers in recent weeks.
“The continuing deterioration of the retail sector due to the impact of the pandemic and second lockdown have made this process longer and more complex than we would have hoped,” it said.
Talks were ongoing but a deadline imposed by the High Court could not be pushed back any further, the group added.
The announcement was the latest sign of the devastating impact the pandemic is having on businesses across the economy – and on the same day that figures showed one in seven firms fear they will not make it beyond the next three months.
In a separate blow to jobs elsewhere, energy giant E.On said it was planning to cut almost 700 roles over the next two years as it migrates customers to a new platform.
Advisory firm FRP has been appointed to handle the administration of Peacocks and Jaeger.
London-based Jaeger has 76 stores and concessions, employing 347 staff, while Cardiff-based Peacocks operates 423 stores with 4,369 staff, FRP said.
The appointment of the administrators has not resulted in any immediate redundancies or store closures.
Tony Wright, joint administrator and partner at FRP, said: “Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present.
“We are in advanced discussions with a number of parties and working hard to secure a future for both businesses.”
EWM Group had already placed its Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Ponden Home brands into administration earlier this month.
Retail has been one of the sectors worst hit by the economic impact of the pandemic, with chains from Marks and Spencer and John Lewis to Boots and DW Sports announcing thousands of job cuts.
The latest lockdown in England has deepened the crisis for many, coming in the middle of the crucial “golden quarter” before Christmas.
It means that despite positive developments on potential vaccines pointing to what the Bank of England’s governor has described as a “light at the end of the tunnel” for the economy, businesses and workers are still counting the cost.
The government’s furlough scheme to support temporarily laid-off workers has been extended until the spring but latest unemployment figures showed that even before the latest lockdown redundancies had risen to a record level.