Woolworths fell into administration last night, putting 30,000 jobs at risk and marking the bleakest day so far for retailers in the financial crisis.

The troubled variety store chain failed to get sufficient backing from its banks to weather a cash crisis and directors met to appoint Deloitte as administrator just after MFI, the struggling kitchen seller, which employs about 2,000 people, also filed for administration.

As consumer spending and credit availability tightens, smaller retailers have already failed but Woolworths’ collapse is the biggest retail administration in the UK for many years, and comes as surviving retailers wage an increasingly desperate promotional battle to attract shoppers.

The decision to appoint administrators came in spite of late moves by the government and BBC Worldwide, which seemed to offer hope that the group could be salvaged.

Financial Times, The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent