Ethel Austin has collapsed into administration for the fourth time.

The embattled retailer, which was bought out of administration by former director of bookseller Blackwell Sue Townsend last August, has 48 stores mainly in the Northwest.

Duff & Phelps has been appointed as administrator to the business. Restructing specialist GA Europe has been brought on board by the administrator to help trade the business while options for the future are considered.

Townsend bought the chain, which used to trade under Life & Style, for £1.5m last year. The homewares and fashion retailer has had a checkered past. Life & Style was formed in March 2010 after company director Elaine McPherson acquired the trade name and assets of Ethel Austin and homewares chain Au Naturale.

It was the second time that she had rescued Ethel Austin from administration after it collapsed for the first time in May 2008.