The Barclay brothers, who stunned the sector with last week's£750 million takeover of Littlewoods, will consider within a month whether to sell off the high street division.
Potential buyers, including overseas venture capitalists working with UK financial partners, have approached the secretive twins. A sale is thought likely by analysts, who believe the Barclays' interest is in Littlewoods' mail order business.
The brothers, free of the emotional ties that linked the founding Moores family to Littlewoods, will be able to release value that had always eluded the Moores.
A source close to one interested party confirmed an approach had been made to the Barclays. He said: 'They (the bidders) were in the original auction and they are still keen.'
He believed the deal will deliver the Barclays assets potentially worth£1 billion, of which the stores business is at least£250 million.
Analysts believe retailers including Primark, Sainsbury's and Clinton Cards are interested in some or all of the stores. Argos must be considered a contender to take Littlewoods' Index chain, one observer said.
- Usdaw representatives will meet Littlewoods managers on Monday to discuss the security of its 9,000 members' jobs.