Administrators are unlikely to find a buyer for embattled retailer BHS wholesale, meaning the business could be broken up and sold in "a piecemeal sale of specific sites in strategic locations" to John Lewis, Next or Sports Direct.
The 88-year-old company, which employs 11,000 people and operates 164 stores in the UK, is expected to file for insolvency on Monday (25 April) after last-ditch talk to save the retailer appear to have failed. Reports suggested that, despite ongoing talks with Sports Direct, any buyer would only consider a purchase if it did not have to assume responsibility for the chain's £571m ($822m) pension deficit.
"The attention has all been on the debts of the business but the ongoing strategy of BHS has been neglected," said Phil Dorrell, partner at the consultancy Retail Remedy.
"There isn't a reason to shop there. The supermarket offers tick all the boxes that BHS once owned and without a radical change in proposition there just isn't a space for BHS to occupy. Sadly this is probably the beginning of the end for BHS on our high streets. It would take a brave and innovative business to buy the brand and turn it into an ongoing concern."
Should the group enter administration, it would be the biggest high street failure since the end of Woolworths in 2008, adding to the in-tray for the government as it tries to save thousands of steel industry jobs.
BHS, which has reported trading losses for seven years, totalling £415m, was handed a lifeline last month after creditors accepted reduced rent for around half of BHS's stores.
Dominic Chappell, whose business Retail Acquisitions bought BHS from retail tycoon Sir Philip Green for £1 in 2015, issued a letter to BHS staff late on Sunday night in which he urged employees to hold their heads high.
"I would like to say it has been a real pleasure working with all of you on the BHS project, one I will never forget," the letter said.
"You all need to keep your heads held high, you have done a great job and remember it was always going to be very, very hard to turn around."