Online book seller The Book People has slid into administration, putting almost 400 jobs at risk just a week before Christmas.
The Surrey-based retailer, which also runs pop-up shops at schools and businesses, hired corporate finance firm PwC as administrators on Tuesday.
Administrators said the company, which has been owned by private equity firm Endless since 2014, is rapidly exploring a sale and it does not expect any immediate job losses.
PwC added that the company will fulfil all Christmas orders already placed by customers.
The Book People, which was founded by Ted Smart and Seni Glaister in 1988, has an annual turnover of more than £50 million and employs 393 staff.
The company operates from its head office in Godalming in Surrey and coordinates its deliveries from a 92,000 square foot warehouse in Bangor, North Wales.
It said administrators have been hired as a “result of the difficult trading environment that the business has been experiencing”, alongside capital pressures.
Toby Underwood and Zelf Hussain are acting as joint administrators for the retailer, PwC said.
Mr Underwood said the business will continue to trade normally as it searches for a new buyer.
He added: “The intention is to fulfil and deliver all customer orders received and accepted.
“I appreciate the obvious concerns that staff in particular will have as we move towards Christmas.
“Whilst the administrators have funding to meet the payroll for December, the longer-term prospects for the business, staff, customers and suppliers will clearly be dependent upon whether a sale can be secured.”
The retailer, which makes 76% of its sales through its online platform, has seen its sales continue to come under pressure in recent years as retail giants such as Amazon continue to dominate UK book sales.