A prospective buyer has been found for two historic North East department stores threatened with closure.
Joplings in Sunderland was founded in 1804
Robbs of Hexham and Joplings in Sunderland faced uncertain futures after Liverpool-based owners Owen Owen Ltd called in the receivers.
Administrators Kroll said they have begun negotiations with an interested party and are hopeful of selling.
The stores, both founded in the early 19th century, face closure unless a buyer can be found.
Earlier this month employees of Robbs reacted with anger when they were given notice of redundancy after responding to a fire alarm.
Bosses at the store deliberately set off the fire bell to clear the building of customers and get staff together in one place.
At the designated fire point, the 140 members of staff were told the landmark store would be shutting in two weeks.
But both Robbs and Joplings could be handed a lifeline if a buyer can be secured.
Phil Duffy, a partner at Kroll, said contract negotiations are continuing.
He said: "For the avoidance of doubt, there is no absolute guarantee that the proposed sale will take place.
"However, we remain hopeful of completing the sale of the business as a going concern in the near future."
Lewis's in Liverpool is also due to close unless a deal can be reached.