Dozens more jobs are set to be axed in the Midlands after administrators confirmed further store closures at retail chains Ethel Austin and Au Naturale as administrators today confirmed further store closures.

MCR, the administrators of value clothing chain Ethel Austin and its sister company Au Naturale, said they will shut 81 stores in the next three to four weeks, across the UK, following the closure of 124 stores last month.

This will see 696 retail positions likely to be made redundant, while MCR added it had made more job losses at Ethel Austin’s head office in Knowsley, Merseyside, after shedding 56 staff.

Stores set to be axed in the West Midlands include Northfield, Perry Barr, Shirley, Bilston, Aldridge, Cotteridge, West Bromwich, Stafford, Worcester and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The 76-year-old group is in administration for the second time in two years following an earlier rescue from collapse in May 2008.

Geoff Bouchier, joint administrator and partner of MCR, said: “It is a difficult retail climate and until such time as any sale of the businesses can be completed, cost-cutting measures need to be taken to allow the businesses to trade on in the short term.”

He added they were still hoping to secure a buyer for the remaining business.

The business - founded by Ethel Austin and her husband George Austin in their Liverpool council house in 1934 - was bought out of administration in 2008 by Elaine McPherson, the previous chief executive and joint owner of MK One.

She pledged to return Ethel Austin to its “former glory”, with an overhaul of the stores and clothing range.

But the group has come under pressure from rival budget chains such as Primark and Matalan, while the financial crisis affected its financing plans.