The children's clothing retailer Adams has become the latest casualty of the high street slowdown. The Warwickshire-based company, which has 260 stores in the UK and 116 overseas outlets, and makes clothing for Boots, called in the administrators at the weekend, putting about 2,000 jobs at risk.
Adams had been trying to bounce back after being rescued from a spell in administration less than two years ago, but worsening trading made it harder for the firm to service some £30m of debt. Intense competition from the supermarkets and other high street retailers added pressure on its attempts to find a niche for itself.
Its collapse comes just days after a host of high street names – the entertainment chain Zavvi, the tea and coffee merchant Whittard of Chelsea and the menswear chain Officers Club – were forced to go into administration.
Woolworths, the most high-profile victim of the crisis so far, closed 200 of its stores at the weekend. Unless buyers can be found, the rest of the 800-strong chain will shut down by the end of the week.
The insolvency experts Begbies Traynor have warned that up to 15 national and regional chains and hundreds of smaller players across the country could go bust in the new year as the recession chokes off consumer spending. Among firms believed to be at risk are Clintons Cards, the camera specialists Jessops and the furniture chain Land of Leather.
Jonathan De Mello, director of retail consultancy at Experian, said the future of many retailers would be determined by how well they performed in December. "Some will struggle massively if they haven't made money over Christmas," he said. "We're going to see a lot more insolvencies." He said quarterly rental payments, due in the next few days, could also tip some firms over the edge.
The British Retail Consortium warned that 2009 would be a hard year for retailers. "There's no indication that fundamentals are going to change, so customers will go on being reluctant to spend and retailers will have to go on offering big discounts and promotions in order to tempt them, which is very difficult for retailers," a spokesman said.
Freddie George of the brokers Seymour Pierce described the past few weeks as "the worst Christmas for many years", and predicted weak sales and intense discounting well beyond January.
Adams has called in PricewaterhouseCoopers as its administrators, the firm that handled its collapse two years ago.
The group's overseas stores include outlets in India and Saudi Arabia, while its deal with Boots sees its Mini Mode clothing range sold in 330 concessions.