Published: Tue, March 24, 2020
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

B&Q closing stores on Tuesday as Sports Direct condemned for staying open

B&Q closing stores on Tuesday as Sports Direct condemned for staying open

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said that Sports Direct is not an essential retailer and should close after owner Mike Ashley said his stores would remain open.

A message from chief finance officer Chris Wootton, seen by PA, argued its staff and stores were key to keeping the country healthy while many people are confined to their homes.

"We are uniquely well placed to help keep the United Kingdom 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)".

It read: "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".

Sports Direct said it will remain shut for the time being after Mr Johnson ordered the immediate closure of non-essential stores, but B&Q is preparing to reopen to provide "only essential products" to customers and traders after being allowed to stay open.

The email also said: "The prime minister has openly recognised the importance of people staying active and exercising, provided they are doing so responsibly".

Covid-19: United Kingdom announces nationwide lockdown
The measures also include strict limits on gatherings and even exercise - all enforced by police. The police are authorized to fine those flouting the rules, and break up gatherings.

Shops that can stay open include: Supermarkets and other food shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, newsagents, bicycle shops, home and hardware stores, laundrettes and dry cleaners, garages, pet shops, post offices, banks.

But the announcement sparked heavy criticism, with Labour chair Ian Lavery telling Ashley to "take some responsibility" and close down.

Rival retailers such as JD Sports have confirmed that stores will remain shut in the face of the virus, until government guidance changes.

B&Q owner Kingfisher said its United Kingdom stores will continue to trade despite closing its outlets in France and Spain, while newsagent WH Smith says it also is performing an essential service.

"There is no one else that has the range of product and range of stores to make this reasonably accessible for the whole population", Wootton said.

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