The business brains in this year’s series of The Apprentice had a cat-astrophe when they tried to sell some Chinese lucky charms in the first episode.

The two teams of would-be entrepreneurs, divided into men and women, had to work through the night to sell the contents of a shipping container including loo roll, bottled water and leather jackets.

They also had to sell dozens of boxes of plastic cats with waving paws – which the Chinese believe bring good luck – but struggled to close the deal.

The women managed to find the one place in London that already had a ready supply of the cats – Chinatown – and arrived so early the shops were not even open, despite being warned by team-member Sophie Lau the shopkeepers could buy them cheaper straight from China.

The men did a little better and managed to offload their cats, but only after wasting hours fitting them with batteries.

The Apprentice team leader Jason Leech, who said his brain worked like a ‘machete in the jungle’, struggled with the task and admitted the contestants had ‘to take the lessons we’ve learned from the cat catastrophe forward’.