HIGH street retailer Sports Connection went bust today, sparking fears for hundreds of jobs across Scotland.
There are concerns the Glasgow-based chain could close all its 43 stores in Scotland, Northern Ireland and north England.
Receivers KPMG were called in today, immediately closing 13 "loss-making" stores with the loss of 109 jobs.
And it is feared around 600 more jobs could be lost if the rest of the shops close.
The branches closed today include Argyle Street in Glasgow, Ayr, Cumbernauld, Stirling, Inverness, Kilmarnock, two in Edinburgh, two in Newcastle and three in Northern Ireland.
All other stores have been told to continue trading as normal for the time being.
KPMG said the chain experienced financial difficulties due to heavy borrowing and poor trading over the festive period.
The blow comes just 18 months after bosses said the company had doubled operating profits to more than £1million, with annual turnover rising to £40m by August 2002.
Workers at Sports Connection's city centre stores were in the dark today about their jobs.
Some claimed they were told by managers right up until yesterday that rumours the company was going into liquidation were being put out by rival retailers.
But a source at Sports Connection's Hillington HQ said the writing had been on the wall for some time, with prices of some goods slashed by more than 70% in a bid to get cash in quick.
The source, who asked not to be named, said: "It was kept quiet and staff, apart from the top brass, didn't know.
"They were told not to believe rumours going round, and that stock was being sold off cheap to clear the shops for a new range.
"But the truth is that receivers were called in this morning and Sports Connection will be closing its stores."
A company spokeswoman would not say how many staff would be hit or if and when any of its shops would close.
Blair Nimmo, KPMG head of Corporate Recovery in Scotland and joint receiver, said: "We are hopeful of concluding a sale of the business quickly, with a view to securing as many jobs as possible.
"Meanwhile, we will continue to trade the business as normal."
Sports Connection was formed in 1980 by entrepreneur and controlling shareholder Paul Stern.
Sports Connection continues to trade from St.Giles, Elgin