Value-led fashion retailer Ethel Austin is nearing a refinancing deal that could safeguard the future of the 300-store chain, according to newspaper reports.

Amid reports that some suppliers are still owed monies due before Christmas, The Independent newspaper said an unnamed investor was in "advanced negotiations" to inject much-needed working capital into the business.

Differing reports suggest that while some suppliers have become nervous about the company's long-term future, the retailer has continued to expand by opening a number of new shops and is said not to be in trouble at all.

The developments come after former MK One executive Elaine McPherson bought Ethel Austin out of administration in 2008, with sources suggesting that she has invested GBP5.5m (US$8.9m) in the company to date.