More than 8,000 jobs are on the line after Clinton Cards became the latest casualty of the high street spending slump.
The group, which is the UK's biggest specialist cards retailer and operates 628 Clintons and 139 Birthdays stores, collapsed into administration after failing to find a buyer for all or parts of the business.
Administrators at Zolfo Cooper said the group had made losses of £130 million since 2004 and it was "likely that a number of stores would need to be closed to make the business financially viable".
Zolfo will continue to trade the business as a going concern and said it remained confident it will be attractive to potential buyers.
Clinton's plight was sealed after its banks - Barclays and taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland - sold the company's £35 million of loans to its biggest supplier. But whereas the banks waived certain conditions, American Greetings told the company it planned to enforce the loan, pushing the company into an administration process.
The collapse is another blow to the high street after recent high-profile casualties, including video games retailer Game Group, fashion chain Peacocks and outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure.
The group is the UK's largest specialist retailer of greetings cards and was founded by current chairman Don Lewin in Epping, Essex, in 1968.
Peter Saville, joint-administrator at Zolfo, said the company suffered "extremely challenging" conditions, particularly at Birthdays, but added that there was a strong underlying business.
He said: "Despite evaluating ways to restructure the business, Clintons was unfortunately unable to secure adequate support or funding for its restructuring plans.
"The challenging business environment, and in particular the increased competition for greetings cards and related products, meant that the group required radical restructuring, and administration was the last remaining option available."