Convenience store group Haldanes has filed for an administration order, with the owners blaming the Co-op for its woes.

In a statement, chief executive Arthur Harris said: “Following advice from our lawyers and an insolvency practitioner, we have made the decision to seek an administration order for Haldanes Stores Limited and Ruston Retail Limited in order to protect our position.

“The directors and I are devastated at having to take this step and our thoughts are with our employees who find themselves facing an uncertain future; we would like to publicly thank them for their efforts and loyalty during their time with Haldanes. We will work closely with the administrator and do our utmost to secure the future of a group of stores in the Haldanes estate.”

Haldanes and the Co-op kicked off legal proceedings against each other last month over a deal in which Haldanes bought 26 Co-op stores. Haldanes accused the Co-op of trying to force it out of business.

It is understood that the 26 stores will close on June 14.

Harris said: “We have made countless attempts to negotiate with the Co-operative Group over the last nine months, all to no avail. As a result, we issued proceedings in the High Court against the Co-op on 10th May 2011. We lodged full details of these proceedings with the High Court and its solicitors yesterday (8th June 2011).

“I am absolutely distraught that it has come to this. We firmly believed that the Co-op would at least sit down with us and hear what we had to say, but they have chosen to either ignore or refuse all of our requests to meet. This has left us with nowhere else to go.

“The directors and I would like to assure employees and suppliers of Haldane Retail Group, UGO Stores, Haldanes Express and Bakery Products that these businesses are unaffected by this development and will continue to trade as normal.”

A spokesman for the Co-op said: “The Co-operative Group regrets that Haldanes has taken the decision to seek an administration order.  Should the business go into administration, we will look at any ways in which we might be able to help those communities and  Haldanes’ employees who will be affected.

“Haldanes is substantially indebted to the Group due to its failure to pay rents owing to us. We have acted in good faith throughout our dealings with the business, including providing significant financial support during its start-up phase. Any legal action will be contested vigorously.

“Most recently, we carefully considered a proposal from Haldanes that we provide further financial support to help them through their current difficulties. We regrettably decided, however, that given what appeared to be the levels of the issues facing Haldanes, we could not proceed.”