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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Jobs saved as Toon tycoon buys skiwear business

NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley has bought a skiwear business based in Longtown, saving 17 jobs.

Ski and Outdoor Warehouse, in Longtown Industrial Estate, had been due to close after Christmas due to the retirement of its founder and owner Alisdair Wilson.

Now its future and that of three satellite stores is secure following a takeover by Mr Ashley’s Sports Direct for an undisclosed six-figure sum.

Mr Wilson, 57, will stay on as a consultant.

He said: “It wasn’t that the business isn’t profitable, it is. I just thought I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.

“I have a building company in Somerset and a hotel in Austria and I was going to concentrate on them.

“Then I got a phone call from a third party on behalf of Sports Direct’s acquisitions division and they asked if I would be interested in talking to them.

“I went down to their head office at Shirebrook [in Nottinghamshire] and had a chat, came away and put some figures together and it went from there.

“I have a three-and-a-half year contract to run Ski and Outdoor Warehouse and to advise them on all matters ski and on how they can improve their ski offer.”

The deal went through at the end of November.

Sports Direct spokesman Steve Thomas explained the thinking behind the takeover. He said: “The snow sports’ market is relatively untapped by Sports Direct and, despite having some excellent ski brands in store, we are not known as a store for ski/snowboarding kit.

“This acquisition opens up an excellent opportunity for us to grow our presence in the snow market.”

Ski and Outdoor Warehouse was founded in Moffat in the early 1990s but moved to Longtown 16 years ago.

Further stores at Tamworth, Castleford and Exeter have opened over the past eight years while online sales have grown through the website www.skiwear4less.com.

All the stores will continue to trade and further expansion is on the cards.

Sports Direct has set an ambitious target of increasing its share of the snow/ski market by 20 per cent in three years.

It plans to open snow-sports ‘shops within a shop’ in Sports Direct stores and to open more dedicated winter-sports’ outlets under the Ski and Outdoor Warehouse brand.

Mr Wilson said: “We have five or six locations that we want to look at.”

Sports Direct initially planned to rename the business as Skiwear4less.

But on reflection, Mr Wilson said, it decided to stick with Ski and Outdoor Warehouse.

In summer, when demand for ski and snow gear is subdued, the shops will become outlet stores for the Karrimor brand, which is also owned by Mr Ashley.

Karrimor began life as a rucksack manufacturer but its range now includes footwear, running gear and camping equipment.

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