Cumbria retail tycoon Philip Day wants to keep struggling Jack Wills out of administration if he can fend off competition from Mike Ashley to buy it.

According to the Press Association (PA), Mr Day's Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group has put in a bid for the struggling fashion brand which would seek to avoid a pre-pack administration.

It is understood that Mr Ashley and Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group boss Mr Day are going head-to-head to take over Jack Wills after the company appointed advisers KPMG to explore options for its future after reporting a downturn in trading.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Mr Ashley's Sports Direct is now the favourite to win the race for the clothing brand.

A takeover by Sports Direct would involve a pre-pack administration – a type of insolvency in which Jack Wills would be placed into administration and then immediately sold on debt-free.

The new owner of the brand is expected to be announced by advisers at KPMG as soon as Monday.

Sources close to the process told PA that Mr Day hopes to buy the company's debt and has committed to not considering any restructuring for the first month of ownership.

One source said: “EWM Group is worried that KPMG are going to stick it into administration, when they've told them pretty specifically that it doesn't need to go into administration.”

Mr Day is also expected to install either himself or an ally as executive chairman and provide a £12 million working capital fund to cover the chain's near-term costs.

PA understands that Mr Day believes there are synergies between the brand and Jaeger, which he bought out of administration in 2017.

The showdown between Mr Day and Mr Ashley comes almost exactly a year after the two were front-runners to buy department store House of Fraser, in a process which ended in Sports Direct acquiring the company in a pre-pack administration.

Since then both men have acquired chunks of the high street, with Sports Direct picking up and Evans Cycles, while Mr Day's vehicle Spectre recently took over women's fashion chain Bonmarche.

KPMG and EWM Group both declined to comment.