Frasers CFO says high streets need more government support
Jun 8, 2020
Frasers finance chief Chris Wootton has urged the government to do more to support high street retailers following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he warned that many high street firms risk going out of business as a result of the “turmoil”.
“The high street has been in turmoil for some time and it needs all the help it can get,” Wootton said.
“I will credit the government on the business rates relief that we got, but that is something that needs to be looked at more permanently to help save the high street, because business rates are a key issue in doing that,” he continued.
Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct, Jack Wills and Flannels, is set to reopen stores from 15 June following government guidance. Like other retailers, the company is adapting its stores to comply with social distancing and health and safety guidelines, including installing sanitation stations and protective screens.
But Wootton has been very vocal in his criticism of the government’s plans to reopen shops, branding the process a “shambles”.
Explaining his opinion on the matter, he said the government has been “very vague” in terms of guidance.
“I think privately and publicly, retailers were expecting to open on June 1. I have been very public in our views that the Dominic Cummings fiasco led to the Government panicking and pushing that back.
“They opened car showrooms from June 1, which frankly didn’t make a lot of sense given a lot of retailers, including ourselves, have stores of significant size which are at least as big as car showrooms,” he concluded.
Sports Direct has been at the centre of various controversies during the lockdown, first for attempting to get a permission to keep stores open during the lockdown and second for asking furloughed employees to continue working.
But the business has also made efforts to support employees during this period, keeping salary levels at 100% in May for both furloughed and non-furloughed employees.
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