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Coronavirus lockdown: Sports Direct hikes online prices after U-turn on store closures

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
A closed Sports Direct store at Wrekin Retail Park in Telford, the day after Boris Johnson put the UK on lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Nick Potts/PA via Getty)

Sports Direct has hiked the price of some of its sports equipment online, in a controversial move that risks fuelling a growing backlash against the retailer.

The sports company owned by Frasers Group, whose majority shareholder is Mike Ashley, was already under fire for planning to open stores despite the UK government’s coronavirus lockdown.

Labour MPs hit out at the company and minister Michael Gove said it should close its doors, following prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to order “non-essential” retailers to shut on Monday.

The company embarked on a swift U-turn, announcing on Tuesday morning stores would remain shut. But it now risks been accused of profiteering from a national emergency as documents seen by PA Media appear to show its plans to hike certain prices by as much as 50% online.

Read more: Sports Direct U-turns on plans to open despite government lockdown

Price hikes on the document, apparently produced for staff, include the price of one 4kg kettle bell increasing from £9.99 to £14.99. A 12kg kettle bell increased from £29.99 to £39.99, according to PA Media.

The increases faced heavy criticism from the public on social media, amid rising demand for home sports equipment during the lockdown.

A spokesperson for Sports Direct acknowledged some prices had risen but said the goods were all still under the recommended retail price (RRP).

“While some goods have seen an increase in price at Sports Direct, this is not the complete or accurate picture,” he said.

“Not only were these goods originally discounted, but even now they are under the RRP. In regard to the rest of the group facias – including Flannels, House of Fraser and USC – there continues to be a 20% discount on all online sales until mid-April.”

Read more: Confusion over who are ‘key workers’ and which shops can open