Sports Direct stores were planning to stay open because its stock is vital, according to an email sent to employees seen by Press Association.

Bosses at Sports Direct said all stores will remain open because selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset during a national shutdown, PA reports.

However, the company has backtracked on this today and confirmed that its branches WILL close.

Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Evans Cycles, wrote to all workers within 30 minutes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to shut down all non-essential shops. 

According to PA, finance chief Chris Wootton wrote: "We stock a huge range of sports equipment designed for exercising at home... indeed home fitness is the number one trending topic on social media after coronavirus itself.

"Against the backdrop of the closure of gyms the demand for these types of products has increased exponentially as the population looks to maintain a healthy lifestyle."

Sports Direct has branches at Oxford Retail Park in Cowley, Seacourt Retail Park in Botley as well as branches in Didcot, Banbury and Bicester.