THE High Street retailer Sweater Shop, which used lucrative sponsorship deals with snooker stars Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty to help boost its image, has gone into receivership placing 1300 jobs throughout the UK - almost 400 in Scotland - under threat.

Some 270 jobs at one of the company's manufacturing plants in Cumnock, Ayrshire - already recognised as an unemployment blackspot - are among those which could be axed.

A further 100 could also go in the retailer's nine shops north of the Border including Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street, in Glasgow, and Princes Street and South Gyle in Edinburgh. It also has outlets in Aberdeen, East Kilbride, Falkirk, Perth, and Stirling.

Councillor David Sneller, leader of the Labour-run East Ayrshire Council, described the news as ''devastating . . . a severe disappointment to the community''.

He said: ''This was a new factory which opened five years ago and employed up to 500 people and is in an area which suffers from very high unemployment.

''The council will seek a meeting with the receiver to see if we can salvage something with a new company. We want to save as many jobs as we can.''

Mr Ian Doyle, chairman of Cumasters Ltd, which looks after

the interests of a number of snooker players including Hendry and Doherty, said the company's demise was ''very, very sad''.

He added: ''We enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the company for about six years until about 1995 when the Dezille family, which owned it, sold out to a management buy-out team. Our contract expired at that time,'' Mr Doyle said.

''The whole Sweater Shop concept was very innovative. One of the great things was bringing the jobs to Cumnock. It is very sad that they might now be lost. After the buy-out things never quite seemed the same.''

Accountants Price Waterhouse were yesterday appointed as administrative receivers of the Sweater Shop group of companies at the request of directors following ''continuing losses'', which are understood to amount to several millions of pounds.

The Leicester-based group has 78 retail outlets throughout the UK and currently employs 1300 in manufacturing and retail operations.

The company says expressions of interest have already been shown in many of its retail outlets and the group is hopeful many sales staff may be retained.

However, it is less confident about selling on its manufacturing operation and says ''urgent consideration'' will be given to its viability over the next few days.

It intends to continue trading through its stores while seeking buyers for the retail outlets in a bid to dispose of some #10m of stock.