Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has issued an apology for the way his chain reacted to the coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown.
Ashley lobbied the government to keep his stores open saying they were an essential service. The company said that the sports equipment they sell could be used at home to exercise when gyms are closed.
Sports Direct then suffered a widespread backlash on social media.
However, Ashley has now changed course and, in an open letter, apologised for the “ misunderstandings of the last few days” and has offered his fleet of lorries to help the NHS and key workforces.
He said: “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 Frasers 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 when that 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.”
Sports Direct also owns Evans Cycles, which is regarded as an essential retailer and allowed to remain open.