More than 2,000 jobs were at risk today after off-licence chain Unwins went into administration.
The accountants KMPG were called in as administrators last night by Unwins' main creditor, HBOS, when it lost patience with attempts to rescue the company.
It followed the breakdown of last-ditch talks with potential suitors in a bid to save the 168-year-old firm.
Many of Unwins' 381 outlets were again closed to shoppers today in the vital final week before Christmas.
Unwins, which is based at Dartford, Kent, employs 2,500 staff but KMPG said it was "too early" to say what would happen to the jobs.
Unwins, which has a drinks wholesale business as well as its chain of off-licences, was a family-owned business until March, when it was sold for £32million to DM Private Equity.
In recent weeks, Unwins has put a number of stores up for sale while others have been temporarily closed. Difficulties for Unwins have been stacking up as supermarkets nibbled away at its margins.
The company had been working with corporate restructuring specialist Kroll in an effort to attract interested parties.
KPMG said it hoped to have more information about what would happen to jobs and outlets later today.
Rival off-licence Wine Cellar has been touted as the most likely buyer, while Castel, the French owner of Oddbins, is also thought to be interested. Whittals Wines is considered as another potential bidder.Reuse content