November 22, 2018 / 2:09 PM / 7 months ago

Sports Direct boss to tell lawmakers to do more to help UK retail

FILE PHOTO: Mike Ashley, founder and majority shareholder of sportwear retailer Sports Direct, leads journalists on a factory tour after the company's AGM, at the company's headquarters in Shirebrook, Britain, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Mike Ashley, the billionaire boss of Sports Direct (SPD.L), will use an appearance in front of lawmakers next month to demand more assistance for Britain’s struggling retail sector, he said on Thursday.

A string of store groups have gone out of business or announced shop closures this year as they battle subdued consumer spending, rising labor costs, higher business property taxes, growing online competition and uncertainty over Brexit.

Ashley will give evidence to the lower house of parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on Dec. 3.

“I believe politicians and landlords should be doing more to save our struggling high streets, so I intend to make the most of this opportunity,” said Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United soccer club.

In August Sports Direct snapped up the 58-store House of Fraser department store chain for 90 million pounds ($115.9 million) after it collapsed into administration.

So far Ashley has secured the future of around 22 House of Fraser stores. He has blamed the closure of others on landlords for not offering more favorable terms.

Last month Sports Direct purchased specialist bicycle retailer Evans Cycles for an undisclosed sum immediately after its parent went into administration but Ashley said he would only keep half of the chain’s 62 stores open.

Ashley’s imminent parliamentary appearance will not be his first. In 2016 he was summoned to explain Sports Direct’s working practices and conceded it had effectively paid some warehouse staff below the statutory minimum wage.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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