// Sports Direct & Evans Cycles will now close doors amid lockdown despite initially vowing to stay open
// Last night, parent company Frasers Group said they provided essential service to help people stay healthy
// Boris Johnson last night said all retailers selling non-essential products were to be closed for at least three weeks
Sports Direct and Evans Cycles have back flipped on a decision to keep their stores open during the lockdown, shortly after parent company Frasers Group was met with criticism for initially vowing to keep them open.
According to the PA news agency, an email sent to staff just 30 minutes after last night’s government-mandated lockdown announcement saw Frasers Group finance chief Chris Wootton say that Sports Direct and Evans Cycles would remain open “where possible”.
Wootton added that the two chains offered vital products and services that would help people “maintain a healthy lifestyle” during the lockdown.
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“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,” Wootton’s email read, according to PA.
“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.”
However, 12 hours later Wootton clarified that the two retail chains would not open, although Frasers Group wanted clarification on whether bicycle stores counted as a “essential” service.
“To clarify my earlier message, we will not open our Sports Direct or Evans Stores to the public, even though government policy excludes “bicycle shops” from closure until we are given the go ahead by the government,” Wootton said in a statement this morning.
“Please note we are contacting them at all levels including attempting to get confirmation from the Prime Minister.”
— Sports Direct (@SportsDirectUK) March 24, 2020
Last night, shops selling “non-essential” goods were ordered to close as Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed dramatic steps to combat the rapid spread of Covid-19.
The draconian measures will be in place for at least three weeks and will also see the closure of libraries, playgrounds, hair and beauty salons, and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.
The PM said people should not be going shopping except for essentials such as food and medicine, and are allowed one outdoor exercise per day.
Politicians last night hit out at Frasers Group, which is owned by retail tycoon Mike Ashley, for the initial decision to keep Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores open amid the lockdown.
Labour’s chairman told Ashley to “take some responsibility” and “shut up shop”.
“Who on earth does Mike Ashley think he is? He’s prepared to endanger the life of his employees and the public at large,” Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said in a tweet.
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said Sports Direct staying open would be “putting vulnerable people at risk”.
Labour MP Jess Phillips agreed that the firm was “not essential”, tweeting: “Massive mugs notwistanding there is nothing people cannot live without in Sports Direct.”