Around 75 jobs in Northern Ireland are at risk after shoe store Barratts went administration for the third time in four years.
Barratts Shoes operates from 75 stores and 23 concessions across the UK and Ireland, employing 1,035 people, of whom 521 are part time. This includes 15 stores in Northern Ireland.
Philip Duffy and David Whitehouse of financial advisory and investment banking firm Duff & Phelps were appointed administrators on Friday afternoon after an investor pulled out of a plan to inject £5m at the end of last week as the company sought to shore up its finances, according to a statement.
The administrators said they were reviewing the company's financial position and seeking a sale of the business as a going concern but warned that redundancies and store closures cannot be ruled out.
Staff have been informed and stores are trading as usual but further announcements on the future of the chain's outlets are expected in the next few days.
Almost two years ago, the footwear chain went into administration for the second time, with unseasonably mild weather blamed for exacerbating already difficult trading conditions.
Attempts to find a buyer for its concessions business failed, costing 1,600 jobs, but in January last year a deal was agreed to save most of the standalone store chain – though with the loss of 680 jobs.
Barratts owner and boss Michael Ziff had previously been involved in a deal to keep the brand going after it went into administration in 2009.
University of Ulster retail analyst Donald McFetridge said that worse news could be on the cards for well-known retailers in the coming months.
"Historically, Barratts has had a troubled reputation and over the past four years they have been in administration a total of three times," he said.
"This time, the death knell is sounding as the administrators struggle to try to find a buyer for all – or part – of the business.
"The real problem for Barratts is that they still have far too many outlets in far too many towns and cities but – sadly – far too few customers.
"Their product range and offering is seen as limited and pricey for what customers are getting and competition in the footwear trade is tough. Internet retail footwear offerings like Branch309 and Schuh.com compound the problem with online shoppers ordering and receiving much more contemporary shoes and boots within 48 hours of placing an order.
"It is more than likely that we are going to see more store closures and job losses in the chain – even if a suitable buyer is found. The company has been frantically trying to secure funding in order to be able to keep stock in the stores over the Christmas period but this appears to have failed with a £5m pound offer withdrawn late last week.
"We are most likely to witness further store rationalisation within the chain which will result in (at best) a store group of a much smaller scale – with fewer outlets cannibalising each other in neighbouring towns."Shoe retailer Barratts has entered administration again