Mike Ashley, the controversial British entrepreneur who controls Sports Direct International, has suggested that the British Parliament should impose a 20 percent tax on online sales to protect brick-and-mortar retailers.

He said the tax should be imposed on retailers that make more than 20 percent of revenues through the internet, blaming “the web boys” for the problems faced by Debenhams, a department store group in which he holds a 29 percent stake. Evidently, SDI's Sports Direct stores generate less than 20 percent of their revenues from the internet although they pioneered electronic shopping and are still called Sports Direct.com.

Addressing a parliamentary committee on housing, communities and local authorities, Ashley also said that city councils should offer matching incentives for retailers making investments in their stores. He said that SDI could turn the languishing House of Fraser chain of 59 department stores into “the Harrods of the High Street” with the support of the brands, local councils and landlords.

Ashley claimed that the retail sector is already “dead” outside London's main shopping district and some shopping malls.

He also indicated that Debenhams and House of Fraser could collaborate in purchasing – something that the Karstadt and Kaufhof department store chains in Germany are planning to do now that they are under common ownership (see our last issue).

In an interesting move, Cally Price, a store manager in Cardiff Bay who was elected by the group's staff as the workers' representative in September, has been allowed to join SDI's board of directors as of next Jan. 1, five months earlier than previously planned. She started at SDI as a zero hours worker in July 2007.

David Daly, a former Nike executive who had joined SDI's board last year, was elected as its non-executive chairman at the annual general meeting in September, replacing Keith Hellawell. The group's major shareholder, Mike Ashley, was confirmed as chief executive.