Sports Direct has scrapped a plan to stay open in defiance of the government's lockdown less than 12 hours after stating its stores were essential for people to stay fit.
The sportswear giant was forced into a U-turn after initially claiming it was classed as an essential retailer and meant to stay open.
The email to employees said the stores were "uniquely well placed to help keep the United Kingdom fit and healthy".
"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", wrote Chris Wootton, finance chief of the brand's parent company Frasers Group, which also owns bike shop Evans Cycles.
The sports company owned by Frasers Group, whose majority shareholder is Mike Ashley, was already under fire for planning to open stores despite the United Kingdom government's coronavirus lockdown.
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery questioned the initial decision, tweeting: "Who on earth does Mike Ashley think he is? Take some responsibility [and] shut up shop".
The permission sought by Sports Direct, however, seems unlikely to be granted by the government.
B&Q is closed on Tuesday as chief executive Graham Bell said in a statement that he had learned "that the DIY and hardware store sector has been categorised as an essential retailer".
Asked if Sports Direct employees were key workers, Mr Gove said: "No".
He added: "We are now working out the safest and simplest way to support communities in providing only essential products moving forwards".
Staff, we are told, were then disgusted to learn that the price of fitness equipment in stores would be increased from Tuesday morning.
"And I understand they will not be remaining open".
One said: "We feel like we're putting ourselves and others at risk by not staying at home like the government has told us to".
Any firm which closes its stores joins a long list which now includes Primark, McDonald's, Greggs, Nando's, Costa Coffee, Eat, and Debenhams.
Britons can still order goods online under the new government measures telling them to stay at home.
These would include limiting customer numbers, introducing floor signage to mark safe distances, marshals to manage queues, protective screens at checkouts, and additional security, the company said in a statement.