The administrators to Ethel Austin have earmarked half of the value retailer’s 270-store portfolio for closure.

Staff at Ethel Austin have been told today that 129 stores could close as part of the administration process.

The number of potential job losses is unknown but Ethel Austin employs 3,100 staff across all of its stores.

A further 404 full and part-time staff are facing redundancy at the retailer’s warehouse operations and 65 redundancies have been made at the retailer’s head office in Merseyside, Liverpool.

Ethel Austin Limited, which also owns homewares retailer Au Naturale, hit the buffers last week after being impacted by a lack of banking facilities compounded by a poor January’s trade.

90 of the stores earmarked for closure are Ethel Austin-branded and the remainder are Au Naturale stores.

Administrator MCR is continuing to search for a trade buyer for the remainder of the group.

Ethel Austin and Au Naturale were bought out of separate administration processes in 2008 by former MK One chief executive Elaine McPherson, who sought to build a value empire by combining both brands.

MCR partner Geoff Bouchier said: “MCR is now conducting a parallel strategy. All stores are to enter into a sale campaign commencing tomorrow while we continue to seek a purchaser for the Companies businesses.

“Specifically 129 of the companies’ stores have been identified as loss-making and as a consequence those stores will enter a closing down phase which will commence tomorrow.   A rescue of these stores by a willing purchaser has not been ruled out.

“The distribution centre, which was operating on a much reduced basis prior to the administration, is to cease remaining operations and as a consequence 404 of the distribution centre employees have been made redundant with effect from today.

“The joint administrators have also undertaken a review of the head office function and consequently identified a further 65 positions which have become immediately redundant.

He added that all unpaid wages owing at the date of the administration will be paid in full in line with usual payment dates.