Rent-to-own giant BrightHouse is close to collapse, the BBC understands, putting 2,400 jobs at risk.
The company is expected to fall into administration on Monday after facing an influx of compensation claims for selling to people who could not repay.
Stricter lending rules had put the business under strain long before shops were closed owing to coronavirus.
BrightHouse has 200,000 customers and is the largest operator in the rent-to-own sector.
Rent-to-own customers make monthly payments for household items, in effect renting goods until they have paid in full. Many are on low-incomes, and find it difficult to access credit from mainstream lenders to pay for fridges and washing machines.
BrightHouse customers will continue with payments, even if the company goes into administration.
The expected collapse, first reported by Sky News, would see 240 shops close, some of which are in Poundland stores, unless a buyer is found.