Sports Direct bosses to keep stores open despite coronavirus lockdown order

24 March 2020, 00:24

Sports Direct will keep their doors open despite an order for UK stores to shut in lockdown
Sports Direct will keep their doors open despite an order for UK stores to shut in lockdown. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Sports Direct bosses have declared they will keep their stores open despite a UK-wide lockdown being brought in to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Boris Johnson ordered all non-essential stores to close their doors for the next three weeks in a televised address from Downing Street on Monday evening.

But Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, wrote to all workers within 30 minutes of the announcement to say they remain open because selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset during a national shutdown.

In an email seen by the PA news agency, finance chief Chris Wootton wrote: "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.

Anyone who is not a key worker has been told to stay at home
Anyone who is not a key worker has been told to stay at home. Picture: PA

"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."

The finance chief, who sits on the board alongside chief executive and majority owner Mr Ashley, signed off: "Thanks for your incredible efforts during this time."

The PM said restrictions would be tightened up so only essential journeys should be made by key workers.

Social gatherings have also been banned, with meetings restricted to only two people.

People will now be required to remain in their homes, except to visit shops for essential items or get exercise.

Mr Johnson said police will be given powers to enforce a raft of new measures, including through fines and dispersing crowds.

People can only leave their homes for the following reasons:

*Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible

*One form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household

*Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

*Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

The following measures will be enforced

*All shops selling non-essential goods,​ including clothing and electronic stores will be closed

*Libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship will be closed

*Gatherings of more than two people in public banned – excluding people you live with

*All social events​, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies banned, but funerals are allowed