Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins owner Arcadia has gone into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.
The High Street giant has hired administrators from Deloitte after the pandemic “severely impacted” sales across the group.
No redundancies would be announced immediately, it said in a statement.
And Arcadia’s stores will continue to trade as Deloitte considers all options available to the group.
All orders made over the Black Friday weekend will also be honoured, the administrators added.
Sir Philip Green’s retail empire had failed to secure extra funding to pay its debts after sales slumped during the pandemic.
The group, which runs 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas, said 9,294 employees are currently on furlough.
Ian Grabiner, the boss of Arcadia, said it marked an “incredibly sad” day for the group.
“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic including the forced closure of our stores for prolonged periods has severely impacted on trading across all of our brands,” he said.
“Throughout this immensely challenging time our priority has been to protect jobs and preserve the financial stability of the group, in the hope that we could ride out the pandemic and come out fighting on the other side.
“Ultimately, however, in the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe.”
Matt Smith, joint administrator at Deloitte, said that it would be working with Arcadia management to assess all of the options available to the group’s brands, which also include Evans and Outfit.
He said Deloitte would rapidly seek expressions of interest and expected to identify one, or more, buyers to hopefully ensure the future of the businesses.
Fashion retailer Boohoo is seen as a potential buyer for some of Arcadia Group’s big name brands, such as Topshop. In the past it has bought struggling brands Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen and Coast.
What’s next for Sir Philip Green’s retail empire?
The prospects for the 13,000 workers look very challenging. There is a lot of industry chatter that online-only retailers might want to snap up the names that still have some consumer power – such as Topshop and Topman.
But while the likes of Boohoo and Asos may want the brands, they will not want to take on a portfolio of physical stores – which is where most of the jobs are. Other brands like Wallis, Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burton are not considered very relevant to a new generation of consumers.
And what of Sir Philip? His gruff and combative style belies – or is perhaps explained by – the fact he is much more thin-skinned and sensitive than you might think. He will feel this failure personally – but that will be little comfort to the thousands of employees facing an uncertain future with Christmas round the corner and rising unemployment limiting their other job options.
He is also very stubborn. That resistance to change, and insisting he knew best, was at the heart of Arcadia’s demise. It’s hard to see another act in what has been a career full of drama and controversy.
As many have said, at heart he was not really a retailer – he was a shrewd financier – a money man. The future of retail requires a very different skill-set.