SPORTS Direct says it will now close its stores after a major backlash followed it decision to stay open, against government advice.

The retail giant had claimed that selling sporting and fitness equipment made the company a ‘vital asset’ during a national shutdown.

But branches across the UK, including the shop on Riverside Retail Park, will be closed from today after a U-turn.

It comes after politicians hit out at the business for its plan to keep stores open despite Boris Johnson ordering non-essential shops to close.

Labour party chairman Ian Lavery told Mike Ashley – majority owner of Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct and Evans Cycles – to ‘take some responsibility and shut up shop’.

Frasers wrote to all workers within 30 minutes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down non-essential retailers last night, outlining its previous position.

In the original letter, chief finance officer Chris Wootton said: "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.

"Consequently, we are uniquely well placed to help keep the UK stay as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis – and thus our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will remain open where possible to allow us to do this in accordance with the Government's current social distancing guidance."

But Mr Wootton now says that its stores will not reopen ‘until given the go-ahead by the government’.

Labour MP Jess Phillips also criticised the appeal to keep stores open, tweeting: "Massive mugs notwithstanding, there is nothing people cannot live without in Sports Direct."

Rival retailers such as JD Sports have confirmed that stores will remain shut in the face of the virus until government guidance changes.