Department store chain Beales is to close 12 of its shops in a bid to sell the rest.
Efforts to sell all 23 outlets together have failed, the administrators KPMG said.
The dozen being closed will trade for a few weeks to sell remaining stock, and staff will keep their jobs until then.
The department store began trading in 1881 in Bournemouth, which is one of the stores that will close, the administrators confirmed.
Beales had tried to secure rent reductions with landlords and was in negotiations with potential investors and buyers.
“There is currently no intention to implement closure plans for the remaining 11 stores, which will all continue to operate as usual until an outcome with regards to a sale of the business is clarified,” said KPMG.
Beales employs about 1,000 people.
But the stores have been racking up losses, with the firm reporting a £3.1m deficit for its last financial year.
The following stores will close:
The company’s decision to appoint administrators comes at a difficult time for UK retailers.
Recent data from the British Retail Consortium revealed that retail sales fell for the first time in a quarter of a century last year.