On Monday, PM Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be in full lockdown for three weeks. He told the public that they simply must stay home and to only venture out if it was absolutely necessary.
The only reasons to go outside, he said, were to exercise once a day, medical purposes, to provide care to someone, or for work when it could not be avoided.
Shortly after the Primer Minister’s order, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, tried to make a claim that it is essential.
This is what Frasers Group’s finance chief Chris Wootton wrote after the national lockdown was announced:
“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.”
However, it didn’t take long for the government to respond. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove went on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and made the following comments:
“My view is that Mike Ashley should rescind what he said. He should back off. 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.
“People can walk, run or cycle, they should, but there is no reason for a store like Sports Direct to remain open.”
The Athletic’s George Caulkin has tweeted an update that both Sports Direct and Evans Cycles will close.
Michael Gove says on Radio 4’s Today: “the management of that store have got the message and Sports Direct will now not be open.”
The message should not have been necessary. Mike Ashley was prepared to put lives at risk – workers and customers – for money. Disgusting.
— George Caulkin (@GeorgeCaulkin) March 24, 2020
Mike Ashley is quite disgraceful beyond belief.