Kate Middleton’s fashion favourite Jigsaw becomes the latest high street victim of coronavirus 

Jigsaw will shed jobs and shut stores as it becomes the latest high street victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

The fashion brand, owned by Carphone Warehouse tycoon David Ross, has been a fixture in the wardrobes of middle-class British women for 50 years and is a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, who once worked in its stores.

The precise number of job losses will not be revealed for a few weeks as it prepares for an insolvency process known as a Company Voluntary Agreement, Sky News reported.

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visits Henry Fawcett Children's centre, London, on March 12, 2019,  Wearing a Gucci, top, Jigsaw trousers, high-street brand

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visits Henry Fawcett Children's centre, London, on March 12, 2019,  Wearing a Gucci, top, Jigsaw trousers, high-street brand

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visits Henry Fawcett Children’s centre, London, on March 12, 2019,  Wearing a Gucci, top, Jigsaw trousers, high-street brand

Masks disaster: PPE in ministers’ £252m deal can’t be used by NHS 

Fifty million face masks will not be used by the NHS amid safety concerns over their fastenings, officials have confirmed.

There are fears the masks, which use ear-loop fastenings rather than head loops, may not fit tightly enough for healthcare staff.

They were bought by the Government as part of a controversial £252million contract from Ayanda Capital. The company, which is registered in Mauritius, said the masks met Government specifications.

But legal papers have revealed many of the FFP2 respirator masks are failing ‘face fit’ tests as they do not create a sufficient seal.

A further 150million masks are not thought to be affected but will be subject to further testing before any are released for use in the NHS.

Boris Johnson said he was ‘very disappointed’ but legal proceedings were under way so he would not be drawn on the specific example.

He said: ‘We have achieved a colossal race against time to produce billions of items of PPE, sourcing them from abroad but now increasingly making them here in the UK as well, and stockpiling them now in case we have a second wave in the autumn and the winter.’

Campaigners have demanded an inquiry into the contract, which court papers suggest was instigated by a Government trade adviser who also advises the board of Ayanda.

Businessman Andrew Mills has denied any suggestions that his position played a part.

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said: ‘The Government has serious questions to answer over this shocking waste of taxpayers’ money.’

Ayanda said that the contract had been successfully fulfilled and that proper procurement processes had been followed. They said the masks went through a ‘rigorous technical assurance programme’. 

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It follows the collapse of Oasis, Warehouse, Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley which have shed close to 3,000 jobs between them. Jigsaw employs 900 staff.

Last night foreign exchange firm Travelex also went into administration with the loss of 1,300 UK jobs. 

The company said it had been ‘acutely’ hit by lockdown and the collapse of travel, along with a cyber-attack on its files this year. Some parts of the business – and 1,800 jobs in the UK – have been saved.

Yesterday, the coronavirus bloodbath continued as Wetherspoon’s announced it would shed up to a third of its head office staff, taking the total jobs toll this week to 8,000.

Jigsaw, founded in Brighton in 1970, was struggling even before the pandemic struck as tough competition in women’s mid-market fashion left the chain nursing losses.

The closure of its 75 stores and concessions during lockdown, together with shoppers’ concerns over the virus, has tipped it over the edge.

Even after it reopened, experts said the cancellation of weddings and events meant shoppers were shunning its tailoring and formal dresses in favour of comfier, casual clothing.

And employees’ failure to return to the office means that working women are not buying workwear.

The store closures have already begun, with closures in Newbury, Berkshire, and Aberdeen. 

Jigsaw told customers in Newbury: ‘The UK retail sector has been struggling for some time as customers of all ages move to the convenience of online shopping and the coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated this.

‘We have therefore taken the difficult decision to close a number of our stores and carry out a wider strategic review of our business.’

The chain has been accused of mismanagement after seven directors, including a former aide to Samantha Cameron, left earlier this year.

The controversy centres on Mr Ross, 54, estimated to be worth £600million, who bought the brand two years ago from founder John Robinson. 

The tycoon has placed the company up for sale after it made a loss of £10.5million for the year to September 2018. 

The plan to close stores, cut rents and shed jobs will take several weeks and will only go ahead if it is approved by three-quarters of Jigsaw’s creditors.

Companies House documents also suggest that Mr Ross was forced to inject a further £7.5million in loans to see Jigsaw through the crisis.

He gave £279,000 to the Conservative Party before last December’s general election and arranged part of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’s holiday to Mustique over New Year.

A Mail audit found 107 of the largest UK companies have cut close to 230,000 jobs since March 23 and at least 132,000 of those are in the UK. 

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