Four BHS department stores in Northern Ireland are under threat after the company went into administration.
Several hundred jobs in the Greater Belfast area are at risk, including direct employees, suppliers and surrounding businesses which sell to workers.
It is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths went bust in 2008.
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).
A total of 11,000 jobs are at risk across the UK.
BHS was bought last year by a consortium called Retail Acquisitions, headed by Dominic Chappell, for £1 from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, the owner of the Arcadia retail empire.
BHS has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million, which proved a major stumbling block in last-ditch rescue talks over the weekend.
Rival retailer Sports Direct is understood to want to some of BHS's 164 stores, but will only do so if it does not have to take on any pension liabilities.
Sir Philip is reported to have offered £80 million towards the cost of BHS pensions, though the regulator could still pursue further payment from the retail billionaire.
Sir Philip bought BHS for £200 million in 2000.