Duff & Phelps, the firm that is handling the administration at Rangers football club, said redundancies and store closures cannot be ruled out, but it is continuing to trade the 48-strong chain while seeking a buyer.
Four of the company’s branches are in Scotland, at Airdrie, Clydebank, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Joint administrators Philip Duffy and Sarah Bell said they were “urgently” reviewing the company’s financial position.
Ethel Austin, which also trades as Life & Style, has suffered a “marked downturn” amid the recession, according to Duff & Phelps.
Previous rescues of the 78-year-old chain were mounted in 2010 by Scottish retail specialist Elaine McPherson and in 2011 by former Blackwells bookshop chain director Sue Townsend.