Philip Day’s fresh approach for Bonmarche is far from a done deal, with the retail tycoon wary adding to the £5.6 million he has already lost on the struggling high street chain, in-Cumbria understands.

Mr Day’s Peacocks business – part of the wider Carlisle-headquartered Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group – has been announced as the preferred bidder by Bonmarche’s administrators FRP Advisory.

And while that puts the billionaire in pole position, any deal will hinge on rate negotiations between Peacocks and Bonmarche landlords and a wider due diligence exercise that will ultimately decide if a proposal is made.

in-Cumbria understands that it could be well into January before Peacocks decides whether to make a move or back away, with Mr Day, understandably, eager not to run the risk of losing more money on Bonmarche.

Mr Day has already seen a £5.73m equity investment, made via his separate Dubai-registered company Spectre Holdings Ltd, wiped out after the Bonmarche board decided to put the company into administration in October following a string of dire profits warnings during the 12 months.

Spectre, which acquired 52.4 per cent of the company in March, also owns some of Bonmarche’s debt and provided a working capital facility while it grappled with a cost saving strategy to keep the embattled retailer afloat amid the “economic headwinds impacting the whole of the retail sector”.

While some of that may yet be recouped, Mr Day could lose those investments too depending on the nature of any successful bid.

The emergence of Peacocks as preferred bidder – after beating the eight other companies to have expressed an interest – represents yet another twist in the on-going saga to keep the womenswear fashion retailer alive and for Mr Day to salvage something from his involvement so far.

A spokesperson for Peacocks said: “We are working very hard to reach a deal that secures the future of the company and the greatest number of jobs.

“But given the unprecedented pressures the business continues to face, it is also important to recognise this cannot be assured at this time.

“We will now enter a period of advanced negotiations with the administrator and landlords to find a way forward that provides a sustainable, long-term future for the business.”

Administrators FRP Advisory have already announced that 30 Bonmarche stores will close down by December 11, putting 240 jobs at risk.

The remaining 285 stores will continue to trade, but will also be kept under review, and their future cannot be guaranteed.

It has outlets in Carlisle, Workington and Barrow.

And in-Cumbria understands that any deal with Peacocks could result in more Bonmarche store closures, with the company inevitably considering issues such as footfall and locations that have both outlets.

Kendal, Workington and Whitehaven all have Peacocks stores.

A dark cloud has been hanging over Bonmarche’s 2,887 staff for several months as the future of another high street retailer hangs in the balance.

Desperate Bonmarche bosses made a dramatic u-turn in June, advising shareholders to accept Spectre’s original offer of 11.445p per share, having previously told them to resist.

The move saw remaining shareholders sell their stakes to Specture en masse.

Spectre completed the mandatory offer process in July, taking Bonmarche private the following month, when it finally had access to the retailer’s financials.

Despite the move and offer of support from Spectre in its turnaround attempts, Bonmarche bosses acted on the warning of its auditors PwC – which had continually expressed concerns about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern at its current level of trading – and placed it into administration.

Mr Day has a long legacy of turning around struggling retailers, including Peacocks, which he bought out of administration in 2012. He was reported to have ploughed £200m of his own money into reviving the retailer, with Forbes claiming it played a significant role in his rise.

Mr Day – who has an estate in Brampton – was named the eighth richest person in the North West with a fortune of £1.2 billion in The Sunday Times Rich List earlier this year.

He is also, through EWM, a significant investor in Carlisle United.

A group of unnamed businesspeople fronted by two former players, said it would be prepared to reopen talks on its abandoned “approach” for the League Two club if there was interest from United and EWM.