Sports Direct (2)

Sports Direct has backtracked on its plan to remain open despite Boris Johnson's announcement that stores selling "non-essential" must close.

Following the Prime Minister's speech, the sports and fashion retailer said it was "uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible", and was therefore selling essential goods.

That claim sparked huge public backlash and forced Sports Direct to make a u-turn. Instead, chief financial officer Chris Wootton said the retailer hoped to remain open, but would only do so if it received permission from the government. Speaking to the BBC this morning (Tuesday), Michael Gove said he couldn't see "any justification" for it to remain open.

"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," Mr Gove said.

"People can walk, run or cycle, they should, but there is no reason for a store like Sports Direct to remain open."

In the letter published by Sports Direct, it claimed: "There is no one else that has the range of product and range of stores to make this reasonably accessible for the whole population."

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the trade union Usdaw, said: "I can't see how it is an essential service. It's a sports clothing company.

"In my mind, an essential service would include food and medicine and the supply chain around that."

Wetherspoon criticism

Sports Direct's owner, Mike Ashley, is not the only high-profile company boss to receive massive criticism from the public over their response to the crisis.

JD Wetherspoons Tim Martin has come in for scathing criticism after it was revealed the company will not pay its staff anything until the government's scheme to fund 80% of workers' pay kicks in.

The Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union (BFAWU) issued a statement on Monday saying it had received word from JD Wetherspoon head office confirming no staff would be paid from Sunday 22 March.

The statement read: "Whilst other companies such as Costa have promised their staff 8 weeks fully paid, Wetherspoons have left over 40,000 people without their next pay date. With no means of paying for rent, bills or food, and no warning."

It added: "Employees have been stripped of bonuses we had already achieved, and with no confirmation as to how the 80% of pay from the government will be calculated. Rather, in a video circulated to all staff from the company CEO, Tim Martin encouraged his staff to apply for Tesco.

"It is clear that Wetherspoons hold no regard for the financial and mental wellbeing of their employees."