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14 January 2011, 12:02 | Updated: 14 January 2011, 12:11
Concerns have been raised about the future of up to 300 jobs, including some in Hampshire, after book chain British Bookshops & Stationers was put into administration.
Cash flow problems and tough trading, particularly due to the bad weather before Christmas, is being blamed for the company's problems.
Administrators from recovery specialists Zolfo Cooper said the company would trade as normal and no redundancies have been announced.
Expressions of interest have already been received from potential buyers, administrators said. They added that "all possible options” for the future of the company would be considered.
The firm, which was set up in Sussex in 1938, has 51 bookshops and around 300 staff across the South of England, including in Southampton and Portsmouth.
Simon Appell, a partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: “Today's appointment is unfortunately the result of cash flow difficulties suffered by the business, coupled with the tough trading climate for retailers and especially booksellers at present. This is an attractive company with a large network of stores across the South of England and we have already received expressions of interest from potential buyers.”
Doubts about the firm's future surfaced earlier this week after book distributor MDL reportedly stopped supplying the chain over an unpaid bill. The company, which is based in Hollingbury, Brighton, started life as Sussex Stationers and grew during the 1980s and 1990s into a regional South East-based chain.
Mark Froud, chief executive of business group Sussex Enterprise, said: “It's always sad to see established businesses such as BBS in difficulty. But having spoken second-hand to the administrators, they are hopeful of salvaging quite a large portion of the business.
“In particular, I think what would be attractive are the book shops themselves and the staff within those shops. Of more concern are the people based at the central office because if you were buying a business that is where you would look first to reduce your cost base.”