Major high street retailers are circling Borders UK stores as fears mount that the business will be broken up. 

Retailers including fashion chains New Look, Zara and Uniqlo, as well as value chain 99p Stores and entertainment retailers Waterstone’s, HMV and The Works are all said to be keen to take stores.

Uniqlo UK chief executive Simon Coble said Borders’ stores are one of “the number of opportunities we are looking at right now, to gain larger stores for 2010”.

Administrator MCR said it had received “considerable interest” in the business and is prioritising selling it as a going concern, but others said the likelihood is that the stores will be sold off piecemeal.

One source close to former investment backer Valco Capital Partners, Hilco’s investment arm, said: “No one is prepared to pay a decent amount of money for the business as a going concern.”

One Borders rival said it was “unlikely” it could be saved, while a key publishing industry source said that Borders had “lost its way”.

Property consultant Capa, which has been appointed to oversee the sale of the stores, said it had had a number of approaches but that “no deals have yet been done”.

Online retailer The Hut Group, which bought the Zavvi name out of administration to run it as an online store, is thought to be interested in buying the Borders brand name from its owners Borders Inc in the US.

Borders, which also owns the Books etc chain, operates 45 stores in total, of which 20 are on retail parks.

It debuted in the UK in 1997 to much pomp and ceremony, claiming to offer the next generation of bookshops, with coffee shops and entertainment concessions, but failed to make the concept work.

A source close to Borders’ management conceded the book chain “had its own problems” but said the digitalisation of the book market played a major part in its downfall.

It is understood chief executive Philip Downer, who led a management buyout of the business in July, backed by Valco, has ruled himself out of any rescue attempt.

MCR began closing down Sales at the weekend, while most head office staff were made redundant this week. Hilco is managing the Sales.