The future of the pawn broker Albemarle & Bond and nearly 400 staff is in doubt, leaving customers fearful that they will not get their belongings back.

In a statement on its website, Albemarle & Bond told customers, who pawn valuables for short-term cash, that would be held at its pawnbroking center for the duration of the loan.

But the pawnbroker, which is owned by Oxford-based Speedloan Finance, said nothing about the future of its sister brand, Herbert Brown.

"If you do not redeem your loan on the agreed date your pledged item (s) may be sold in accordance with your pawnbroking agreement," the company said.

"If your item is sold for a surplus, we will write to you how you can receive these funds."

A customer service telephone number appears to be overwhelmed or not working, with calls eliciting an engaged tone.

Albermarle & Bond's Reading office could not provide any information.

The website offered no detail about the overall financial health of the company, saying only that "this store" had received a letter.

Fellow pawnbroker and payday loans company The Money Shop went bust in June but it's unclear if Albermarle & Bond has suffered the same fate.

The Liverpool Echo newspaper said it had been "inundated" with calls from people who were worried that it has. Borrowers who said they had pawned items for cash at their local shop and now feared they might never see them again.

Speedloan Finance, was employed at the end of 2018, reported a fall in revenue last year from £ 38m to £ 34m, leading to an increase in pre-tax losses from £ 1.9m to £ 3.3m.

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Its ultimate owner is a Japanese company, Daikokuya Holdings, which is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange and thus has a pawnbroking business in Japan.

Albermarle & Bond flirted with administration in 2014. Bankruptcy boss Sir Peter Burt.

In 2016, it secured a £ 10m cash injection from Gordon Brothers.