Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on the 23rd of March, all non-essential retailers have been ordered to shut down by the government. Measures introduced by the PM are aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in order to contain the disease at levels which the NHS can manage. With pubs, clubs and restaurants closed prior to the announcement, other businesses, such as McDonald’s and Nando’s followed suit voluntarily and ceased trading prior to the announcement. However, following the announcement, Sports Direct billionaire owner Mike Ashley had attempted to ensure his retail outlets remain open through the virtual lockdown. After the PM’s statement was broadcast, reports circulated that Sports Direct bosses were planning to flout the government’s lockdown order. Within half an hour, bosses had written to all their staff, arguing that the provision of sports and gym equipment is a vital service, more acutely required during times of widespread social distancing.
However, despite the circulation of the email and initial insistence to stay open, on Tuesday March 24, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group backtracked. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, “Sports Direct thought it would be appropriate for their stores to be open in order to help people get exercise equipment. We made it clear it was wrong and that the stores should not be open. The Frasers Group’s original email had insisted, “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…”
In his statement, Boris Johnson ordered the British public to a virtual lockdown, placing stringent restrictions on movements and activities. According to the new rules, people are only allowed to leave the house to shop for basic necessities, essentials and medicine. Moreover, there has been a ban placed on the assembly of more than two people in public.