September 22, 2020

Coronavirus: Sports Direct U-turns on opening after backlash

Sports Direct has performed a U-turn on keeping its shops open during the coronavirus lockdown following a backlash over its plans.

The government has ordered all UK shops selling non-essential goods to close.

Sports Direct initially said it would remain open as it was “uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible”.

But after widespread criticism, it now says it will not open “until we are given the go-ahead by the government”.

The chain is now contacting the government “at all levels” to confirm whether its shops are deemed to provide an essential service, Chief Financial Officer Chris Wootton said.

Michael Gove led the charge against Sports Direct on Tuesday morning, saying he couldn’t see “any justification” for it to stay open.

“The key thing we need to do is make sure people wherever possible stay at home. Yes it’s important people exercise but that should be done once a day and it’s a basic thing,” the Cabinet Office Minister said.

“People can walk, run or cycle, they should, but there is no reason for a store like Sports Direct to remain open.”

It had argued that it provided an essential service. Bosses at the company said the sports equipment it sells can be used to exercise at home at a time when gyms have been closed.

In a letter written by Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, finance chief Chris Wootton had said: “Thus our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will remain open where possible to allow us to do this (in accordance with the government’s current social distancing guidance).”

“There is no one else that has the range of product and range of stores to make this reasonably accessible for the whole population.”

Bicycle shops are on the list of retailers that are allowed to stay open during the shutdown.

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