Sports Direct backs down on keeping stores open
Update: Sports Direct has now announced that it will close its stores following backlash.
A sports equipment retailer has said that it will not be closing its stores despite recent government guidance.
Sports Direct has said that it will keep it stores open following last night’s announcement that all shops selling non-essential items should close immediately.
The announcement is the latest in the government’s measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retailers that have been advised they are allowed to stay open include supermarkets, pharmacies and post offices - but there was no mention of sporting retailers in yesterday’s press conference.
In a letter to employee’s following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Sports Direct’s chief finance officer, Chris Wootton, said: “We stock a huge range of sports equipment designed for exercising at home … indeed, home fitness is the number one trending topic on social media after coronavirus itself.
“Against the backdrop of the closure of gyms, the demand for these types of products has increased exponentially as the population looks to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“Consequently, we are uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis and 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.”
Politicians including Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery and Labour MP Jess Phillips have hit back at the retailer’s decision, saying “selling sports wear is not a essential service” and that “there is nothing people cannot live without in Sports Direct.”
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