Sports Direct has admitted it is keeping a close eye on how Brexit could affect EU workers, but said other retailers would also be hit.
The Mike Ashley-controlled retailer employs around 4,000 staff at its Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire with many of them reportedly immigrants from eastern Europe.
Chief executive Dave Forsey told Retail Week that it is “difficult to predict” the impact any decision on foreign workers will have on Sports Direct. “It’s all hypothetical until we know more, then we’ll start to be able to commentate on the impact,” he said.
But he added: “We will monitor the situation”.
Tory leadership frontrunner Theresa May has said she wants to secure the rights of EU nationals to stay in the UK, but flagged that this will depend on the bloc agreeing to give similar rights to British expats in member states.
Forsey highlighted that the issue over foreign nationals is “not unique” to Sports Direct, or the retail sector. “There are other sectors who are very dependent on that workforce,” he said.
The retailer’s Shirebrook facility has come under particular scrutiny over its treatment of staff at the warehouse. Under interrogation from MPs last month, Ashley admitted it had effectively been paying workers below the minimum wage.
Forsey was speaking after Sports Direct today reported an 8.4% fall in full-year profits after tough trading in its second half.
He admitted it had been affected by mild weather earlier in the year leading to a “pretty awful” Easter performance. Sports Direct was also affected by the drop in footfall in city centres and shopping centres due to the threat of terrorism, he said.
Returning to Brexit, Forsey said Sports Direct is not planning to be a “first mover” in raising prices. “We will wait and see how things develop in the sector,” he added.
Meanwhile, on plans to acquire stores from collapsed chains BHS and Austin Reed, Forsey said there is “no update”.