A total of 11,000 jobs throughout the UK may be at risk as high street chain BHS confirms it is entering administration.
The UK-wide chain has four stores in Northern Ireland - a large outlet in Belfast city centre along with stores in Newtownabbey, Holywood and Lisburn.
Around 300 staff in Northern Ireland could now lose their jobs.
The group will continue to trade as usual while a buyer is sought, administrators Duff & Phelps said.
Independent traders' representative Glyn Roberts said: "This is a sad day for the retail sector and the high street as a whole.
"The potential closure of the four local BHS stores will not just have an impact on their staff but also result in less footfall for surrounding retailers
"Change is the only constant in retail and it does seem that BHS did not keep up with the marketplace and the expectations of 21st century consumers."
Mr Roberts is chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (Niirta)
The call would end 88 years of trading by British Home Stores, one of the UK's most recognised high street brand names.
It would also be the biggest retail failure since Woolworths folded in 2008 with the loss of almost 30,000 jobs.
Sports Direct has been in talks to buy some of BHS's 164 stores but it is understood any company would only buy the shops if it did not have to take on its £571m pension deficit.
Entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, who owns Topshop, sold BHS last year for £1.
Owner Dominic Chappell insisted "no one is to blame for the imminent collapse of BHS".
Mr Chappell said: "No one is to blame. It was a combination of bad trading and not being able to raise enough money from the property portfolio.
"In the end, we just couldn't reach an agreement with Arcadia over pensions."
He added that he will continue to work with the administrators Duff & Phelps to "find a solution post the administration".
The fashion and homewares store was thrown a lifeline last month when creditors backed two company voluntary arrangements (CVA) designed to revive its ailing business by cutting costs and preventing widespread store closures.
The company said the immediate future of the firm was secured when 95% of creditors and landlords voted in favour of a CVA for BHS Limited, which represents 125 stores.
A second CVA for BHS Properties Limited - which oversees 23 BHS stores in the UK - was also voted through with a majority of 75%.
The CVA is a form of insolvency that allows businesses to change and alter their lease arrangements in order to reach financial compromise with creditors.
At the time the retailer said 40 of it stores would need to secure a "substantial" rent reduction of at least 75%.