One of the country's biggest electrical goods retailers has gone into administration, closing 50 stores and making 500 workers redundant yesterday.
Union leaders said the decision to pull the plug on PowerHouse was a "devastating blow" to staff, who were told to go home after turning up for work yesterday morning.
Administrators from BDO Stoy Hayward were called in by New Zealand owners PRG and announced the closure of all 50 trading stores.
In the Midlands, the company has outlets in Birmingham, Walsall, Cannock, Stafford, Evesham, and Ludlow, although the exact extent of job losses in the region has to be determined.
John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw, said PowerHouse workers had performed "miracles" in keeping the firm afloat in the intensely competitive electrical goods sector.
"Our members have shown incredible loyalty to PowerHouse in often difficult times so they deserved better treatment than this.
"We will work closely with the administrators to makes sure our members get the payouts they are entitled to at what is a very worrying time for them." BDO said in a statement: "Internet retailers and increased competition on the high street, coupled with an ongoing deterioration in the UK electrical retail market, has led to PowerHouse being unable to sustain its position in the retail marketplace.
"At a board meeting on Tuesday, directors of the UK company decided to appoint administrators."
Customers who have made recent purchases from PowerHouse stores are being advised to call a helpline, 0845 603 4037. The administrators hope most purchases would be honoured.