It’s grim up North for Apprentice fashionistas

THERE are many sides to Lord Sugar. It isn’t all lounging in ermine and plugging his new autobiography – he’s also a dedicated follower of fashion. “London is one of the most fashionable cities in the world”, he informed his would-be Apprentices, quite a shock for those of us who assumed this devil wore M&S. Having gathered them to the London Fashion Retail Academy, their next challenge was selecting stock from new designers to flog in a shopping centre.

Not everyone shared Lord Sugar’s enthusiasm. Stuart declared that clothes were “the most boring thing in the whole world”, quite a claim considering he lives on the Isle of Man.

Luckily he was on the same team as Alex, who knows a few things about selling clothes, and was keen to share his wisdom: “Selling clothes is all about seduction”. Stick to what you know, eh?
For the others, it wasn’t clothes that worried them but the rural backwater they’d have to sell them in: Manchester. “I’m not a big knowledge of Manchester”, confessed Jamie (who, incidentally “doesn’t do fashion”). Or grammar, apparently. He decided Mancunians were a few years behind London stylewise. “You go to clubs in Manchester and you still have to wear shoes”. No time for Jamie to expand on the benefits of the barefoot look: it was time to open the shops.

The two teams had different ideas of what Manchester needed. Synergy kept it cheap and sparkly with Strictly knock-offs while Apollo went for £300 dresses made of recycled ties and suits.

The sales techniques were a little lacklustre. “We’re up from LONDON” they trilled, though oddly the very mention of the capital wasn’t enough to get the tills ringing. Over to self-described retail guru Alex to show us how it’s done: “How about we pretend we’ve got Fearne Cotton and Alesha Dixon in the store?” he mused. Because we don’t, came the answer.

Having failed to seduce, Paloma chose Alex for the boardroom and sales figures were ignored in favour of a discussion of just how infuriating he was. Extremely, thought Paloma. Not totally irritating, reasoned Nick. Perhaps feeling some pity Lord Sugar spared Alex; after a failed challenge and endless buck-passing, Lord Sugar finally lost his faith in Paloma.