Clintons stores across the country and their staff have been thrown a lifeline after the chain was sold back to its existing owners as part of a rescue deal.

The high street greetings card and gifts retailer was placed into administration late on Wednesday but then immediately sold to Esquire Retail – a new firm set up and controlled by the Weiss family, which has owned Clintons for seven years.

Administrators KPMG said the so-called pre-pack administration will safeguard all Clintons' 2,500 employees and ensure its 334 stores can continue to trade throughout the crucial Christmas season.

Clintons has a store on Hexham's Fore Street.

The deal marks the second time Clintons has gone into administration in seven years.

Owners, the Weiss family had been looking for an exit with a possible sale of Clintons, but the chain had also been holding talks with landlords over a possible company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to shut stores and slash rents.

On the speedy administration process, Eddie Shepherd, chief executive of Clintons, said: “Despite receiving support from a number of landlords, we were unfortunately unable to secure the requisite support needed to successfully launch our proposals.

“With no other investment options available, we therefore had to take the difficult step to place the company into administration.”

He added: "We are confident that this deal will kickstart a new chapter for our business."

“Like so many of our fellow high street retailers, we have worked tirelessly to contend with the maelstrom of issues impacting the sector, from business rates pressures, to fragile consumer confidence and the lack of clarity around the taxation of online retail businesses.

KPMG is yet to reveal how much the chain’s creditors will be repaid through the process.

Clintons has, according to industry experts, been suffering from fierce competition with high street rival Card Factory.

However, Card Factory is facing its own challenges as is set to be demoted from the FTSE 250 index later this month based on the closing price on Wednesday.

Card Factory does not have a store in Hexham.