Sportswear giant JD Sports has been fined almost £70,000 in costs after breaching fire regulations after firefighters found that piles of stock ordered for the Christmas rush had blocked emergency exits at one of its Black Country stores.
West Midlands Fire Service found that escape routes at the JD Sports shop in the Merry Hill shopping centre in Brierley Hill was lined with crates and stock, reducing the width of one corridor to just 30cm.
Wolverhampton Magistrates Court heard that inspectors visited the store in December 2015 as part of routine pre-Christmas programme of visits. JD Sports admitted six offences at a hearing before a district judge in Wolverhampton on Thursday October 19.
Inspectors found serious breaches of fire safety laws at the company’s JD Sports and Scotts stores – including an escape route reduced to just 30cm after being blocked by crates and stock. Too much stock had been ordered, causing an overstock problem with clothes rails blocking the store’s fire escapes.
Despite a warning, inspectors again found safety breaches when they returned two weeks later.
West Midlands Fire Service prosecuted the company following the inspection and it was fined £10,000 for each of the six offences and ordered to pay £7,500 in costs.
Fire inspection officer Mick Norton said: “It beggars belief the company compromised the safety of their staff and Christmas shoppers in this way.
“In spite of our warning that we would be revisiting, breaches were again identified when we returned two weeks later. We do everything we can to advise businesses on fire safety but will not hesitate to prosecute if our advice is ignored.
“Retailers must realise they can’t put profit before people’s safety by over-stocking, reducing the width of escape routes and blocking fire exit routes.”