Hereford & Worcester

'Oldest family-owned sports shop' to shut in Worcester

Site in 1890 Image copyright A J KNOWLES LTD
Image caption The shop, pictured here in 1890, was set up by Albert Knowles, the current owner's great-grandfather

A store that claims to be the UK's oldest family-owned sports shop is to close after 135 years.

Knowles Sports in Worcester sold saddles and sports equipment from 1884, but competition from the internet was now the main problem, it said.

Sales are down about 10% this year, and owner Rick Knowles, 61, said it would shut early next year as he did not want the business "to go bust".

The shop was set up by his great-grandfather Albert as A J Knowles.

Image copyright A J KNOWLES LTD
Image caption Arthur Knowles took charge after serving in World War One

Opposite the existing sports store, on Broad Street, is Knowles Travelgoods, which will also close in January or February.

Rick Knowles said there had been "a slow decline over the last three years" and it had had "minimal" business from its own internet operation.

Image copyright A J KNOWLES LTD
Image caption Items including tennis racquets were at the shop, which has sold saddles and carried out repairs
Image copyright A J KNOWLES LTD
Image caption The 50 Broad Street store is pictured in 1965 before the sports sales moved opposite to 19 Broad Street seven years later

"If it's a bit more exclusive, you have more of a chance. But in the mass market, price comes into it more," Rick Knowles said.

"I didn't want to go bust. In a couple of years or so [this] could well have happened.

"Brexit will finish one way or the other. The main problem to my mind is the internet and that's not going away."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Twelve people, mainly part-time staff, work across the two stores

Albert died from pneumonia aged 39 in 1902, at which point wife Mary took charge and son Arthur later ran the business after serving in World War One.

He died in 1971 at the age of 78 and his son Robin, Rick's father, was at the helm until he died in a climbing accident in 1992 aged 60.

Rick Knowles said he believed it was now the oldest family-run sports shop still operating in the UK, based on a Daily Telegraph appeal for information two decades ago.

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