Staff at Northern Ireland's only branch of clothes shop Republic are poised to hear today whether the company is to enter administration.
The youth fashion chain – which has an outlet on Royal Avenue as part of the Castle Court complex – is poised to collapse, putting 2,500 jobs at risk and marking a disastrous acquisition by a US private equity giant.
The 121-store retailer is set to appoint the accountancy firm Ernst & Young as administrator to become the latest failure on the high street, following the demise of entertainment chain HMV, camera specialist Jessops and DVD rental firm Blockbuster last month.
The expected administration of Leeds-based Republic will be hugely embarrassing for the US private equity firm TPG, which bought the clothing retailer in a deal worth £300m in April 2010.
Republic – which sells brands including Diesel, Firetrap and G-Star, as well as its own-brand clothing – has suffered from dire trading recently, as its young customers have cut back on spending and deserted it for rivals.
Sports Direct, the sportswear group that owns Firetrap and other clothing brands, may join fashion rivals in looking at acquiring a slimmed-down version of Republic out of administration. All parties declined to comment.