Potential buyers are eyeing the 200-store Etam UK chain after the business was put up for sale this week.

The industry has been buzzing with rumours about a possible sale since last year, and on Tuesday French parent Etam Developpement said advisers will consider options that 'could, among others, lead to a sale of Etam plc'.

Etam UK managing director Nick Paine said: 'There are a number of people that have already expressed an interest in talking to the group.' However, he ruled himself out of leading a buy-out.

Potential buyers will be concerned about the buoyancy of the UK clothing market and the performance of the chain. In an increasingly competitive sector, Etam UK has underperformed for several years. It reported a like-for-like sales fall of 7.2 per cent last year.

New Look and Asda George are contenders for larger stores should the business be split up.