Debenhams stores are set to close after the failure of last-ditch efforts to rescue the ailing department store chain.
It means all 12,000 employees are likely to lose their jobs when the chain’s 124 shops cease trading.
Debenhams fell into administration for the second time in April and hopes had rested on a rescue bid from JD Sports.
But after the sports chain pulled out, hopes of saving the 242-year-old department store chain faded.
The 12,000 jobs at the retailer are set to go over the coming months unless the administrators do a deal for all or parts of the business as the process unfolds.
It is understood staff were told on Tuesday morning.
Debenhams outlets will continue to accept the firm’s store cards and process returns as normal.
Hilco, the restructuring firm which specialises in winding up retailers, will start going into stores on Wednesday to begin clearing stock.
Debenhams’ news comes just hours after Topshop owner Arcadia collapsed into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.
Tough trading during the coronavirus pandemic proved to be the final blow for both firms, which employ more than 25,000 people between them.
Geoff Rowley of FRP Advisory, joint administrator to Debenhams and Partner at FRP. said: “All reasonable steps were taken to complete a transaction that would secure the future of Debenhams.
“However, the economic landscape is extremely challenging and, coupled with the uncertainty facing the UK retail industry, a viable deal could not be reached.”
The administrators said the outlook for a restructured operation was “highly uncertain” and they had therefore “regretfully concluded” that they should start winding down Debenhams UK, while continuing to seek offers for all or parts of the business.
The retailer had already cut about 6,500 jobs since May as it struggled to stay afloat.
Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said: “We can not overstate the significance of this collapse, given the vast property portfolio, number of jobs impacted and the reverberations felt across the industry.
“The reality is that Debenhams has been outmanoeuvred by more nimble competitors, failed to embrace change and was left with a tiring proposition. The impact of the pandemic has accelerated its demise, but underlying issues within the business were the root cause.”
Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “Coming so swiftly on the back of Arcadia’s collapse, today’s news represents a real bleak moment for the High Street.
“Given how prominently Arcadia brands feature in its stores, the downfall of Sir Philip Green’s empire was always likely to leave Debenhams’ rescue deal hanging by a thread.”
Former Debenhams chairman Sir Ian Cheshire told the BBC he felt “desperately sorry” for its employees.
He said that Debenhams had been “caught in a straitjacket” with too many High Street outlets on long leases.
“You’ve got to be so much faster and so much more online,” he said, adding that the chain would have been better off with about 70 stores.