B&Q stores will be shut on Tuesday, while Sports Direct’s outlets will stay open after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the immediate closure of non-essential stores.
B&Q chief executive Graham Bell said in statement that he had learned “that the DIY and hardware store sector has been categorised as an essential retailer”.
He added: “We are now working out the safest and simplest way to support communities in providing only essential products moving forwards.”
B&Q stores will be closed on Tuesday “as we prepare”, Mr Bell said.
Earlier, Sports Direct came in for heavy criticism, with Labour’s chairman telling the firm’s majority owner Mike Ashley to “take some responsibility” and “shut up shop”.
Management justified keeping stores open on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset during a national shutdown, according to an email seen by the PA news agency.
However, Sports Direct later tweeted a statement signed by finance chief Chris Wootton saying: “We would like confirmation as to whether our Sports Direct and Evans Cycle fascias should open in the morning?”
— Sports Direct (@SportsDirectUK) March 24, 2020
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery questioned the company’s desire to stay open, tweeting: “Who on earth does Mike Ashley think he is? He’s prepared to endanger the life of his employees and the public at large.”
The Wansbeck MP added that selling sports equipment “is not an essential service”, while Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said Sports Direct staying open could potentially be “putting vulnerable people at risk”.
“Take some responsibility SHUT UP SHOP” Mr Lavery concluded.
Who on earth does Mike Ashley think he is ????
He’s now prepared to endanger the life of his employees and the public at large.
Selling sports wear is not a essential service
Take some responsibility SHUT UP SHOP 😷https://t.co/3oBSA5dEpV
— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) March 23, 2020
Labour MP Jess Phillips agreed that the firm is “not essential”, tweeting: “Massive mugs notwistanding (sic) there is nothing people cannot live without in Sports Direct.”
Any firm which closes its stores joins a long list which now includes Primark, McDonald’s, Greggs, Nando’s, Costa Coffee, Eat, and Debenhams.
In contrast, Waitrose announced in a statement that it was backing the Government’s plea with “a set of strong, new measures”.
These would include limiting customer numbers, introducing floor signage to mark safe distances, marshals to manage queues, protective screens at checkouts, and additional security, the company said in a statement.