Carlisle-headquartered Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group has insisted it is “throwing everything” at its response to the impact of coronavirus on its retail businesses.

The company confirmed that is it liaising with the Government to understand if there is support on offer for the 19 people it made redundant last week following a “collapse” in footfall amid stark warnings over the spread of the covid-19.

On Friday the Government announced support for struggling businesses through its coronavirus job retention scheme. This included a pledge to pay 80 per cent of wages for those unable to work due to the pandemic, with the option for those businesses who have already laid off workers to backdate claims to March 1.

The redundancies at EWM Group’s Castle Street headquarters accounts for less than a quarter of the 100 jobs losses it has announced – with the remainder made at its Peacocks headquarters in Cardiff and Jaeger headquarters in London.

A company spokesman confirmed that a consultation has been held with staff, who have agreed to reduce their working hours by 50 per cent for a period of around two months should it continue to suffer a slump in sales.

The spokesman said: “There is the potential for these flexible working arrangements to come into place, but we have not pulled the trigger on that.

“We are doing everything we can to keep people on the payroll. We are basically throwing everything at this.”

On the potential for Government support for the 19 made redundant, he added: “We are trying to understand the process and see if any support back be backdated. We don’t want the people who have sadly been made redundant to miss out on what could be available for them.”

Those who have lost their jobs are understood to have either recently been hired who were due to start work soon.

A temporary ban on recruitment has now been put in place.

Around 200 people work at EWM Group’s multi-million-pound, purpose-designed offices in Castle Street, Carlisle, with more at its global distribution centre at Kingmoor Park.

EWM Group employs around 25,000 people, the vast majority of whom work at its stores.

It took the decision to close all of its stores from Sunday in response to its dramatic fall in custom.

The spokesman added: “We think we are suffering more than other retailers because our core over-60s customers have been explicitly told to self-isolate and stay at home by the Government. They are also less likely to go online to shop compared to many other retailers out there.”

The latest developments come just a few months after EWM Group – owned by billionaire Philip Day – revealed ambitions plans for further store openings across the country in spite of the turbulent times on the high street.

In November the company posted a £23.4m profit after tax.

Elsewhere, EWM is continuing to negotiate with Bonmarche’s administrators FRP Advisory over the future of 70 of its stores after striking a deal to take on the stricken retailer last month.

While an agreement is in place for the group’s Peacocks business to take on its stock and the women's fashion chain 200 UK stores, negotiations with just under half have yet to be completed.