Bargain Booze owner Conviviality has said it intends to appoint administrators within the next 10 business days “unless circumstances change”, putting 2,500 jobs at risk.
Over the past few weeks, the firm has seen its chief executive step down after issuing a string of profit warnings and revealing a £30 million tax bill.
Conviviality was forced to go cap in hand to investors to raise £125 million as a result, but it has been unable to convince them of its long-term future.
It is understood accountancy giant PwC is being lined up as administrator should a buyer not be found.
Shares have been suspended since Conviviality disclosed the discovery of its tax bill, which created what it called a “short-term funding requirement”.
Conviviality’s chief executive, Diana Hunter, stepped down last week with “immediate effect”, with non-executive chairman David Adams stepping into the breach until further notice.
Ms Hunter, a former Waitrose director, had been chief executive since 2013 and led the group through its stock market flotation in the same year.
She also oversaw a number of acquisitions, including Wine Rack, Matthew Clark and Bibendum.
The firm is also a key part of the supply chain to the UK drinks industry, supplying more than 23,000 pubs an restaurants, including the JD Wetherspoon chain.
The company’s collapse would cap a nightmare quarter for the retail sector.
Since January, Toys R Us and Maplin have filed for administration, while fashion retailers such as New Look and Select have embarked on radical store closure programmes.
Piling on the misery has been the under pressure casual dining sector, with Prezzo, Byron and Jamie’s Italian all shutting restaurants and culling hundreds of jobs.
A spokesperson for Conviviality was not available for comment when contacted.