More than 1,100 jobs are at risk at high street chain Jones Bootmaker as its owner scrambles to secure a deal to save it from administration.
Private equity owner Alteri has filed a notice to appoint administrators for the 160-year-old retailer - which has a Chester branch in Bridge Street - which will give it breathing space from creditors seeking to recover debts while it seeks a buyer.
Alteri and advisers KPMG are said to be in negotiations with potential buyers and there are understood to be “credible” offers on the table.
It is thought Jones could be sold as a going concern or through a so-called pre-pack administration, where the firm is placed in administration but the assets are sold immediately to a new owner.
Pre-pack deals are controversial as they often see buyers ditch unprofitable stores and avoid taking on much of the debt.
Jones Bootmaker employs around 1,145 staff and has 103 stores and concessions across the UK .
Alteri bought Jones Bootmaker in October 2015 in a £12 million deal, which also included shoe retailer Brantano.
It has since sought to turn it around, overhauling ranges and its website, and drafting in former Links of London boss David Riddiford as executive chairman last autumn.
But it is believed the chain has continued to struggle amid difficult trading conditions on the high street and rising costs, following last year’s introduction of the national living wage and as the pound’s plunge since the Brexit vote has pushed up buying costs.
Retailers are also bracing for a surge in business rates after next month’s revaluation.
Jones Bootmaker dates back to 1857, when Alfred Jones and his wife Emma opened a store in London’s Bayswater.
They ran the store from 8am to 8pm and to midnight on Saturdays, while looking after their 11 sons and three daughters.