SPORTS Direct owner Mike Ashley today apologised for his “ill-judged and poorly-timed” attempt to keep stores open amid the coronavirus crisis.
The sports equipment retailer boss was widely slammed after telling staff to head into work “as instructed”, minutes after the government ordered all non-essential stores to close immediately.
Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
Billionaire boss Mike Ashley earlier ordered shops to open but making a u-turn[/caption]
And in an open letter today, the billionaire boss said he was “deeply apologetic” over the demands sent to staff.
He said: “In hindsight, our emails to the Government were ill-judged and poorly-timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with.”
He added: “I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days.
“We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future.”
Sports Direct had initially claimed that its position selling sporting and fitness equipment was “vital” during a lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus but it shut its doors after pressure from MPs.
And Mr Ashley has now thrown his support behind the NHS – offering the company’s “entire fleet of lorries” for deliveries.
He said: “Outside of Frasers Group, I have offered our support to the NHS and we are poised and ready for what hat offer is accepted, with our entire fleet of lorries at their disposal – to help deliver medical equipment and supplies.
“This offer is not limited to the NHS but all key workforces across the Government. We will help wherever possible.”
OPEN LETTER FROM MIKE ASHLEY
Given what has taken place over the last few days, I thought it was necessary to address and apologise for much of what has been reported across various media outlets regarding my personal actions and those of the Frasers Group business.
Our intentions were only to seek clarity from the Government as to whether we should keep some of our stores open; we would never have acted against their advice.
In hindsight, our emails to the Government were ill-judged and poorly-timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with.
On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor.
There has been no dress rehearsal for what we as a nation are currently tackling, and I for one am immensely proud of how our Government, our NHS and all of our key workers have handled the situation so far.
I would especially like to thank my Fraseers Group employees who have stood by the business in difficult times before and are doing so again currently.
We are working very hard to save our business, so that we can continue to be one of the biggest employers on the UK high street once this pandemic has passed.
Outside of Frasers Group, I have offered our support to the NHS and we are poised and ready for what hat offer is accepted, with our entire fleet of lorries at their disposal – to help deliver medical equipment and supplies.
This offer is not limited to the NHS but all key workforces across the Government. We will help wherever possible.
Finally, to reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days.
We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future.
I strongly encourage everyone to follow the Government’s advice, stay safe and healthy through these challenging times, not least my employees.
It comes after Sports Direct staff were ordered to slap increased price tags on lines of home fitness goods.
Pricing documents seen by PA news agency show that an Everlast 4kg kettle bell has gone up from £9.99 to £14.99, although the “original” ticket price will still say £19.99.
This is because of the complicated way the controversial company displays its pricing, which is often with a reduced price sticker alongside the original price tag, making it unclear what price a product was ever sold at.
Hundreds of Brits have turned to home exercise equipment to help them keep fit while being ordered by the government to stay at home.
Retailers have been warned by the competitions watchdog not to use the crisis to push up prices or risk facing being fined.
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS – STAY IN THE KNOW
Don't miss the latest news and figures – and essential advice for you and your family.
To receive The Sun’s Coronavirus newsletter in your inbox every tea time, sign up here.
To follow us on Facebook, simply ‘Like’ our Coronavirus page.
Get Britain’s best-selling newspaper delivered to your smartphone or tablet each day – find out more.
The group had wrote to all workers within 30 minutes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision on Monday to shut down non-essential retailers, telling them its position selling sporting and fitness equipment made it a vital asset during a national shutdown.
In the original letter, Mr Wootton said: “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).”
MOST READ IN NEWS
Labour MP Jess Phillips also criticised the appeal to keep stores open, tweeting: “Massive mugs notwithstanding there is nothing people cannot live without in Sports Direct.”
Rival retailers such as JD Sports have confirmed that stores will remain shut until Government guidance changes.
Sports Direct has now shuttered its doors[/caption]