Thousands of families affected by the collapse of the Farepak hamper firm are unlikely to receive any goods, after a last-minute rescue plan failed.
The firm collapsed in October
It was hoped a "goodwill gesture payment" by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) would help customers.
But the BRC said the situation was far more complicated than expected and a solution by Christmas was unlikely.
Swindon-based Farepack ran a savings scheme for an estimated 150,000 people for vouchers and Christmas hamper.
Some of those affected are understood to have saved up thousands of pounds.
On Thursday, Parliament called on the Serious Fraud Squad to examine the Farepak collapse, but it was hoped the BRC would offer a lifeline to struggling families.
But, the consortium, which represents UK retailers, said it had "discounted attempts" to find a workable solution to the problem.
A BRC spokesman said: "After intensive discussions with retailers, the Farepak administrators and other interested parties, the consortium has reluctantly concluded any meaningful goodwill gesture it can make is unlikely to meet the criteria of being simple, fraud-free, not derisory and deliverable before Christmas."
It insisted members would be willing to consider supporting an alternative proposal if anyone else could come up with a plan.
The BRC explained Farepak did not have a central database of customers and available information was neither reliable nor comprehensive.
It also needed to find a far greater amount of money to compensate victims than had first been anticipated.
The spokesman added: "The BRC has decided that it would be better to discontinue its efforts now rather than allow the situation to drag on for the next few weeks with no real possibility of ultimate success."
Administrators said that no orders will be fulfilled after the company was taken into administration on 13 October.