The crisis on the high street deepened yesterday as evidence mounted that more and more store groups are struggling.
Hilco, the retail restructuring specialist, acquired the Stationery Box chain of 140 stores for an undisclosed sum.
It immediately made available an additional £1 million of working capital to Stationery Box to enable the business to re-stock key items as it builds up to its key Christmas season.
Stationery Box has outlets across the Midlands including Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Stourbridge, Walsall, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton, Bromsgrove, Worcester and Hereford.
Paul McGowan, chief executive of Hilco, who will join the board following the acquisition, said: "We have asked the management team to continue as normal and will assist them in building a strategy for the future of the business over the coming weeks.
"The directors and the team at Stationery Box have achieved much success over the last four years. Having inherited a heavily indebted business they have been able to increase sales and profits every year and have repaid a large proportion of the bank debt although a sizeable debt remains.
"Management's over-riding concern is that certain lines are temporarily out-of-stock as a result of a recent credit squeeze and we have therefore provided them with additional headroom to enable them to re-balance the stocks in preparation for the Christmas trading period.
"Clearly recent trade has been impacted by the lack of certain goods but we are confident that the business will now have a successful Christmas."
Hilco provides operational assistance and funding to distressed retailers and claims to be Europe's leading retail restructuring specialist.
Solihull-based retail research company Footfall said UK shopper numbers rose in the second weekend of December but high street trade was still well down on the same period a year earlier.
The number of retail shoppers for the weekend of December 10 was up 5.2 per cent from a week earlier but down ten per cent from the same period a year earlier.
"Shoppers have started to return to the high street to take advantage of the advertised promotions which have been available from many leading stores, but they have done little to increase footfall levels which are still significantly lower than the same time last year," said Footfall marketing manager Natasha Burton.
"With two weekends and two full weeks' shopping opportunities to go, consumers are not yet feeling the pressure to shop in earnest for their final purchases." A survey by Sainsbury's Bank found that last-minute shoppers were set to spend £9.15 billion in the week before Christmas.
But the total is down £446.6 million on 2005.
Nearly a fifth of all gift spending will be put on plastic, with £1.62 billion placed on credit cards.
The average spend per person in the week before Christmas Day is set to be £214.
Only 52 per cent expect to pay off their total bill by the end of January.
But the Touchwood centre at Solihull predicted more than two million people would visit it over the Christmas period.
It claimed strong, customer focussed retailers would continue to trade well throughout the festive season.
Assessing the state of trade across the West Midlands, Andrew Parkinson, general manager of the Lend Lease-managed Touchwood, said: "In the months leading up to Christmas, British Retail Consortium figures have shown that, while the public is still spending, it is becoming ever more discerning with its purchases, so I believe that retailers with a good offer and good customer service will continue to perform well."
Stores were expecting a peak in sales over the final weekend with many people cramming in last minute shopping.
Mr Parkinson added: "Touchwood is confident of improving on its performance from last year.
"At a time when West Midlands shopping centres have seen a decrease in foot-fall year-on-year, our visitor numbers are growing and we are on target to welcome more than 17.2 million guests this year."
He said sales had seen continuous growth, with a six per cent increase in the third quarter compared to last year, and like-for-like sales up five per cent.