The owner of the Supercuts and Regis hairdressing chains, Regis UK, has appointed administrators, putting 1,200 jobs at risk.
Accountants Deloitte have been called in to look for options for the 220-salon business.
The salons will remain open while a buyer is sought for the business.
Deloitte said changes in consumer behaviour had led to lower footfall in shopping centres where many of the salons are located.
"The retail trading environment in the UK remains extremely challenging and Regis UK Limited had been seeking to address this through a restructuring of its business," said Rob Harding, joint administrator.
Last year, Regis UK negotiated a cut in the rent it paid through a legal process known as a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), but landlords challenged the proposals in court.
Increasing numbers of retailers have sought CVAs in an attempt to spread the impact of the downturn, as consumers shift from the High Street to online shopping. CVAs allow companies to seek rent reductions and new debt repayment terms, but are meeting increasing opposition from landlords.
Regis said at the time that a "perfect storm" of factors, including falling customer numbers and higher wages, had hurt the business.
Deloitte said the chains would continue trading while options for the business were explored.
"The group operates two very strong brands and we are working with all key stakeholders to stabilise the situation and provide the best solution possible," said Mr Harding.