Desperate attempts were being made as Retail Week went to press to provide a payment guarantee on behalf of EUK, the Woolworths-owned entertainment supplier, enabling it to resume trading.

Fears were mounting that unless the business is reactivated soon there will be little prospect of a sale because former customers – which include Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s – will have established alternative supply arrangements.

EUK’s administration last week, alongside Woolworths’ 800-store retail division, has created significant difficulties for other store groups. On Tuesday Zavvi was forced to stop selling online as it ran out of vital seasonal stock including new albums from Take That and Britney Spears. WHSmith’s online sales were also disrupted but the retailer said it had plenty of stock for stores.

Deloitte was appointed administrator to Woolworths’ retail division and EUK last week. A spokesman downplayed any prospect that Deloitte would provide a guarantee to EUK in order for it to reopen for business, but sources close to the situation said others – such as Woolworths’ lenders – might and that suppliers would be willing to deal with EUK if this was the case.

One source said: “I believe EUK will be switched back on again on that basis.”

No comment was available from Deloitte, but it is understood talks have been held with EUK suppliers and customers to make arrangements to resume business.

As Retail Week went to press the Wednesday afternoon deadline for bids for its portfolio of stores was approaching.

Those interested in the business include retail entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis, investor Ardeshir Naghshineh and Woolworths’ stores chief Tony Page. Sun Capital and Strategic Value Partners were understood to be among the potential financial buyers.

Retailers including some of the big grocers, Primark, Poundland, Boots, Wilkinson and Original Factory Shop are understood to be interested in parcels of Woolworths stores.

Reports that Woolies’ joint venture 2 Entertain would also be put into administration were dismissed by those familiar with the situation.