The owners of Allders department store in Croydon are in crisis talks to prevent the historic store from folding.

Harold Tillman, who bought the business in 2005 after it fell into administration, is reported to have requested a rent-free period from its landlords The Whitgift Foundation, and asked Croydon Council for a business rates-free period.

The store was forced to sell off all its branches except its flagship store in Croydon after falling into administration seven years ago and is the source of speculation after retail giants Westfield and Hammerson both showed interest in developing the entire Whitgift Centre site last year.

The Croydon Guardian also revealed John Lewis has expressed interest in moving into the town centre and is following developments at The Whitgift Centre closely.

Allders chief executive, Andrew McKenzie, told The Croydon Guardian he was undergoing delicate re-financing negotiations this week but refused to comment on the state of the store, which was established in 1862.