Case Studies in Work, Employment and Human Resource Management
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Case Studies in Work, Employment and Human Resource Management

Edited by Tony Dundon and Adrian Wilkinson

This comprehensive book offers a fascinating set of over 40 evidence-based case studies derived from international research on work, employment and human resource management (HRM).
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Chapter 17: The divided workforce: Zero hours work at Sports Direct

Michelle O'Sullivan


Sports Direct plc was founded in 1982 by Mike Ashley who was the sole owner until the company went public in 2007. He remains as the company’s controlling shareholder and Chief Executive. The company is a large and expanding retailer as shown by revenue which increased from £1.35bn to £3.3bn between 2007 and 2018. It operates in over 20 countries with the majority of revenue coming from its UK operations, followed by its European stores, and it has expanded operations into the USA and Malaysia. Its core business involves selling sportswear and equipment through stores and online sales but it has also branched out into luxury clothing stores. A significant part of its expansion strategy has involved acquiring interests in whole or part in other retail brands such as McGurks, Lilywhites, Heatons, Flannels and House of Fraser, as well as in sports equipment manufacturing, and in buying sports brands like Dunlop, Slazenger and Lonsdale. In conjunction with its transition to a public company, it moved its head office, support functions and 24-hour warehousing and distribution centre to Shirebrook, UK. Sports Direct’s business strategy has centred on providing a comprehensive product range, ensuring stock availability, closely controlling costs and making efficiencies, and a key part of the strategy is selling clothing at cheap prices. The company’s objective in managing its business is to increase long-term shareholder value. The employment practices used to support this objective have been subject to public scrutiny in recent years because of revelations of their negative effects on workers.

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