Electricals chain Comet has collapsed into administration, but customers and the group's 6,600 staff have been told it is business as usual amid plans to secure a rescue deal for the firm.
Administrator Deloitte - whose appointment was brought forward - said it was launching an "urgent" search for a buyer to protect jobs at the 236-outlet chain.
All Comet stores will remain open and all staff will continue to be paid in the meantime, according to Deloitte.
Neville Kahn, joint administrator and restructuring services partner at Deloitte, said: "Our immediate priorities are to stabilise the business, fully assess its financial position, and begin an urgent process to seek a suitable buyer which would also preserve jobs.
"In the meantime, all stores will continue to trade and all employees will continue to be paid. We appreciate the co-operation and support from the management, staff, customers, landlords and suppliers at what is clearly a very difficult time."
Customers with outstanding orders and those with gift cards and vouchers have been told trade is continuing as normal and that the group intends to fulfil deliveries of goods which have been paid for. Extended warranties previously purchased are unaffected by the administration and remain valid, added Deloitte.
The collapse of Comet, which had planned to be placed into administration next week, marks one of the biggest high street casualties since the demise of Woolworths in 2008 and comes a month after the failure of JJB Sports.
Other recent casualties have included Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and Peacocks.
Deloitte said Comet had been hit by weak high street trading conditions, competition from online rivals and being unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.
"The inability to obtain supplier credit for the peak Christmas trading period means that the company had no realistic prospect of raising further capital to build up sufficient stock to allow it to continue trading," added Deloitte.