Fashion chain Republic has collapsed into administration putting 2,500 jobs at risk.
Ernst & Young, administrator to the Leeds-based group, said the 121 shops would continue to trade while it looks for a buyer for the business.
Republic, which started as a men's denim retailer in 1986 under the Best Jeans brand in Leeds, was hit by a "sudden and rapid decline" in sales at the end of last month after poor trading results over the autumn.
Ernst said it had made 150 staff redundant at Republic's headquarters in Leeds. Administrator Hunter Kelly said: "Republic suffered poor trading results in the autumn, and whilst sales picked up in December there has been a sudden and rapid decline in sales in late January.
He added: "We will continue to trade Republic, with a view to selling the business as a going concern. The brand Republic is well recognised, particularly in the North. It has a powerful website offering, owns well-known brand names, and has some very attractive and profitable stores."
Republic, which targets the competitive youth fashion market, sells brands including Jack Jones, SoulCal, Diesel and Firetrap.
It was bought by private equity firm TPG in June 2010 in a deal worth around £300 million, with the founders understood to have retained a significant stake.
Republic's focus in the north of England - an area that has been hit particularly badly by the recession - is thought to have contributed to the poor trading. Mr Kelly said the impact of recent poor results on cash flow had meant the business was unable to continue to operate outside of an insolvency process.
The chain's woes follow a bleak start to the year for the retail sector, with a series of high-profile firms having hit the wall. Thousands of jobs have been axed after music retailer HMV, camera group Jessops and DVD and games rental group Blockbuster called in administrators last month.
Republic's chairman Andy Bond, a former Asda boss, stepped down last week having handed in his notice last year after less than two years. The chain recently hired ex-TK Maxx boss Paul Sweetenham as chief executive. Ernst & Young has set up a helpline for customers on 0113 298 2450 and the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.