AS many as 700 Scottish jobs are under threat after electricals chain Comet became the latest high street casualty of the economic downturn.

The store, which has 34 branches north of the Border, is to be placed into administration next week.

It joins a long list of other major high street stores to go under during the economic downturn and as a result of increased competition from the internet for similar products.

Others to have shut with the loss of thousands of jobs include Woolworths in 2008 and more recently JJB Sport. They also number Clinton Cards, Blacks Leisure, Game and Past Times.

Comet employs 6000 people UK-wide in 240 stores. Staff were told the news yesterday.

A spokesman said: "Comet Group Limited can confirm it has taken steps to seek the protection of the court with a view to the company entering into administration during the week commencing November 5.

"In the meantime the board is urgently working with its advisers to seek a solution to secure a viable future for the company."

Customers have been warned to act quickly if they have vouchers or orders with the retailer as they may not be worth anything once the company has been placed in administration.

Dean Dunham, of, said: "It is not usual for administrators to honour gift vouchers and they do not normally give refunds for them either."

Comet is one of the best-known stores in Scotland, with outlets in all major cities as well as many towns. Restructuring specialist Deloitte has been lined up to handle the administration, and is expected to seek a buyer for the business.

News of Comet's financial troubles comes just months after the chain was taken over by investment firm OpCapita, which bought the chain for a nominal £2 in February. It is thought OpCapita and recently appointed chairman John Clare, the former boss of rival Dixons, had been unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.

The high street electricals market in the UK has come under huge pressure as cash-strapped shoppers put off purchases of big-ticket items such as televisions. There has also been increased competition from online rivals who, without the overheads of a retail outlet, are able to offer discounted prices which the likes of Comet cannot match.

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, said: "We are in an economic downturn and electrical retailers are suffering more than most. There is also the rise of online sales and the big players like Amazon's ability to price compare across a range of products. Food retailers like Tesco are also entering the market.

"Retailers who have performed better are those with strong brand identity, such as John Lewis. Comet has effectively been squeezed out by a combination of these factors."

Jon Copestake, retail analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: "Comet has faced deflationary pressures because of stiff competition and cheaper production costs, while core audiovisual products are being undermined by combined platforms on smartphones and tablets."

John Hannett, general secretary of union Usdaw, said: "This is disastrous news for Comet's employees and more grim news for the economy." He urged the administrators to keep stores trading for as long as possible to enable a buyer to be found.