Staff left waiting for their last five weeks of pay by the administration of Tamworth jewellery retailer Diamonds & Pearls have accused the company of a “cloak and dagger” approach.

One hundred retail workers at the chain were reported to have lost their jobs after 36 stores throughout the country were closed down – but shop staff only found out about their fate after the appointment of administrators had been publicised in the trade press.

The firm was sold out of administration at the beginning of February to Renaissance Jewellery for an undisclosed sum, with management still in place and 50 stores kept open.

A former manager for one of its closed-down stores said the collapse had been a huge blow for the staff concerned, who were sent home by bosses the day after reports of the administration appeared in the retail press. “It was very cloak and dagger,” he said. “It’s been an absolute disaster for me.

“I’ve got a card that I need to pay off and I know that there are other people who are dependent on that money – they are really devastated.”

Staff who were made redundant – many of whom are waiting for up to five weeks of pay – have been told to apply to the government scheme which pays out when companies have not met their wage commitments because of insolvency.

Trouble at Diamonds & Pearls came after the collapse of fashion retailer Ethel Austin, where administrators announced the loss of 469 jobs and the closure of 129 Ethel Austin and Au Naturale stores.

British Retail Consortium figures for January show the High Street is still one of the major battlegrounds of the recession – retailers suffered their worst January in at least 15 years last month as snow storms, higher VAT and anxious consumer sentiment hit sales.