As the country prepares for its first weekend in lockdown, reports continue to emerge of ‘non-essential- businesses keeping their doors open for trade.

Following the announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday night (March 23), confusion reigns as to whether delivery-based companies are allowed to carry on trading.

In his speech, Mr Johnson urged everyone to stay at home apart from if they need food (basic necessities), for any medical need, for exercise once a day or to go to work if they cannot work from home.

Despite concerns from staff over theirs and their family’s health, LancsLive has received complaints about businesses across the county asking staff to continue as normal.

The message from the Government remains unclear, can those workers who cannot work from home (ie distribution centre staff), continue to go about their daily lives?

Many businesses operate distribution centres with hundreds of staff and are using that resource to ensure their business can continue online. However, there are fears that it is very difficult to practice self-isolate or follow government guidelines in such an environment.

Many big retailers, such as Next and River Island, have made the decision to shut down business until the rules are relaxed and some semblance of normality is restored.

However there are a few which have come under fire for choosing to ‘put profit before people’.

Here is a roundup of who is doing what in Lancashire and further afield:


Boohoo warehouses - Burnley

BooHoo headquarters in Burnley

The online clothes store has been slammed by its staff for continuing warehouse operations which can involve more than 1000 employees on any given shift.

Yesterday (March 26), a member of staff spoke out, saying that employees feel the doors will not be closed ‘until someone dies’.

The anonymous worker said that there is less than a metre between each employee, and that many staff are ‘breathing in each other’s faces.

He said: “It’s crazy. There’s 1000 plus staff, if one person gets it there then we all will. They think we are essential and that people need clothes but that’s just not the case.

“They keep putting sales on to boost their sales. That’s not looking out for people that’s just rubbing salt into the wound.”

“Workers feel like they won’t close until one of us dies, and by that point it will be too late.

“My partner thinks I should just take the time off but if I fail to work I will lose my job and I cannot provide for my family, it’s a catch 22.”

BooHoo has defended its decision to remain open, saying that ‘extensive’ measures have been taken to ensure staff safety.

A spokesperson for the retailer, said: “Since the onset of the challenges we all now face, we have closely followed the Government guidelines to keep everyone in our boohoo family safe and well.

"This has meant that amongst many other measures, we have transitioned the majority of our teams to working from home. We immediately identified those in a high risk category and removed them from the workplace for their safety and have closed all communal areas such as gyms and canteens.

"Where it is not possible for our teams to do their jobs from home we have implemented stringent hygiene and self-distancing measures and have lots of support in place.”

GA Pet Foods - Tarleton

CEO Roger Bracewell has set up an office creche at GA Pet Foods despite government advice for people to stay indoors.

GA Pet Foods is a major pet food producer employing around 2,000 people across sites in Chorley, Tarleton and Bretherton.

The company’s CEO, Roger Bracewell, 59, owns the company, worth more than £200m, with his brother Giles.

The partnership package many of the major pet foods including Eden, Canagan, Symply, Lily’s Kitchen and the Barking Heads, all sold at stores like Pets At Home.

Earlier this week an email was sent informing staff that a creche would be set up at the office for the children of employees, contradicting government advice on slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Part of the email reads: “As confirmed yesterday by the chief medical officer in yesterday’s briefings, schools are very safe and children are resilient to disease.”

An employee told LancsLive: “I just want the people of Tarleton to be safe.

“It makes me so upset, people are relying on large companies like this to act responsibly.”

GA Pet Food Partners declined to comment.

JD Sports - Rochdale

JD Sports has continued to operate from its distribution centre in Rochdale despite mass calls for it to be closed.

The sports retailer has been slammed for not only asking workers to continue with their shifts, but for closing the canteen so that workers cannot buy meals.

Several employees have spoken to LancsLive, claiming that security searches are putting them at risk because they are funnelled into a space that does not allow for social distancing.

Family members have also taken to social media to call out the firm, branding it ‘barbaric’ to ask employees to risk their lives for ‘non-essential’ business.

Yesterday, one employee sent a photograph of a letter that had been posted in the communal work area, reassuring employees that their health was a priority.

It said: “In line with government guidelines we will continue to operate our online retailing business.

"Health and safety of our colleagues is paramount to us and we are taking all actions as advised by the World Health Organisation.

“I understand that some of you may have been concerned by the statement from the Prime Minister yesterday, but as clarified by Matt Hancock, Health Secretary earlier today ‘where people absolutely cannot not work from home they can still go to work; indeed, it is important that they do to keep the country running.

“The full guidance also states that gatherings are permitted where it is essential for work purposes.

“However, we also understand the need to have as much social distancing in the workplace as possible.”

Sports Direct - Stores across Lancashire

Sports Direct at Deepdale

On Monday evening, Sports Direct said it will close its stores in a major U-turn after initially calling for its workers to continue selling sports and fitness equipment in the face of coronavirus.

Chris Wootton, chief finance officer of owner Frasers Group, spoke out to confirm its Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores would not open on Tuesday.

He said in a “clarification” that they will remain shut, despite stating that government policy “excludes bicycle shops from closure”.

Stores will not reopen until “given the go-ahead by the Government”, he added.

However, much like JD Sports, Frasers Group continues to trade online in the face of the pandemic, with workers continuing to process orders at the firm’s Shirebrook distribution centre.

River Island and Next

Both of these retail giants have announced that they are suspending operations from their distribution centres to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The brands initially closed their stores, both later announcing that they would also be postponing their online delivery services.

A statement on River Island’s website, says: “The government has said online retailers can ‘operate normally’, but COVID-19 is serious and nothing feels normal at the moment. As a business driven by the love of fashion, we don’t say it often, but some things are just more important.

“Right now, we need to put our people first and so we’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily close our Distribution Centre. This will help protect our teams and make sure they can do the right thing to keep their families and community safe.

“We will still be taking online orders, we just can’t promise when we will get them to you. It could take weeks, although we hope not.

“Our warehouse and stores may be closed for a while, but our community is always open.

As you stay at home, we want to be there with you, lightening the mood (if we can) and sharing entertainment and inspiration.

“We’re looking forward to a time when the news changes less often than our outfit and will be back to our full glory as soon as we can.”