More than 80 jobs in the Oxfordshire branches of a major DIY chain are under threat after the business collapsed.

Adminstrators Ernst & Young were called into Focus DIY and have launched a hunt for a buyer for its stores including those in Didcot, Wantage and Witney in a bid to sell the business as a going concern.

Joint administrator Simon Allport said Focus DIY had been hit by low consumer confidence and a weak housing market, which had placed considerable pressure on sales and margins.

He added that its management had tried to control costs and restructure the business but had been unable to avoid a collapse.

Meanwhile, the business, which runs 175 stores and employs 3,920 staff including 34 in Didcot, 33 in Witney and 16 in Wantage will continue to trade as normal.

Potential buyers reportedly include B&Q owner Kingfisher which is understood to be interested in buying some of the properties, and Chris Dawson, founder of furniture and homewares chain The Range.

Focus DIY, which was founded in 1997 and bought by private equity firm Cerberus for £1 in 2007, employs 285 people at its head office in Crewe and has struggled in recent years against tough competition from B&Q and Wickes.

It underwent a company voluntary arrangement in 2009 when it sought to reduce its rent burden from landlords and reportedly started fresh negotiations over rent repayments at the start of this year.