Frasers Group has offered its help to the NHS in an open letter to Michael Gove.
The letter also challenged the cabinet office minister’s comments on the businesses’ initial decision to keep its Evans Cycles fascias open through the coronavirus lockdown.
Mike Ashley’s retail group has pledged to support the NHS and its employees “in whatever way” it can. This includes an initial offering of its fleet of lorries to travel around the UK delivering supplies.
Frasers faced criticism for seeking commercial benefit in keeping its Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores open, despite an ordered lockdown.
The group had planned for its Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores to remain open, despite Boris Johnson’s orders for non-essential retailers to shut as of Monday night.
Bicycle stores are within the retailers still allowed to trade in-store.
The retailer had intended for Sports Direct to remain open on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment made the company a vital asset with the population now forced to stay at home.
However, the group was forced to U-turn on its decision after Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Sports Direct had made the “wrong” call and that its stores should not be open.
CFO Chris Wootton has now written to Gove following a call between the two earlier today.
Wootton tells the cabinet minister: ”We wish to make absolutely clear that as a business keeping open any of our stores is completely uncommercial for us at this time.”
He also highlights the group’s measures to offer ”the vast majority of employees who were in the categories designated as being vulnerable by the government to stop coming to work and go home on full pay until further notice”.
This was then extended to all employees over 60.
In the letter, Wootton implies should Evans Cyles stores be allowed to remain open, they would enforce appropriate social distancing and would only use employees who wish to volunteer to staff the shops.