The administrator of value fashion retailer Ethel Austin will close 33 of its 300 stores and slash 181 jobs at head office after it hit the buffers yesterday.

Usdaw is in emergency talks with administrator Menzies Corporate Restructuring. Usdaw national officer John Gorle said: “We are now seeking urgent talks with the administrators to work out the best way to support and assist our membership in this difficult situation.”

The retailer, which was last week understood to be the subject of a rescue deal from former MK One executive Elaine Gray, will continue to trade at the stores earmarked for closure for three weeks to clear residual stock.

Ethel Austin chief executive Simon Cooper and retail director Ian Ogden will leave the business tomorrow, along with head of buying Beverley Latchford-Brown. Finance director Paul MacDonald will stay on for an undisclosed amount of time to oversee the handover of the business.

In a statement issued yesterday, administrator Menzies’ Philip Duffy said: “Our primary concern is to ensure that the business continues to trade in the coming weeks and that a suitable buyer is found. Despite the challenges faced by the retail sector, we remain confident that a buyer can be found.

“Ethel Austin has a good brand and good customer base and this, together with its national coverage, should make it an attractive opportunity for a retailer. We appreciate that this is a worrying time for staff and are therefore keen to keep them informed of progress.”

Click here for a list of Ethel Austin's store closures.