New hope for closed JJB shops

Closed - the flagship JJB store at Robin Park
Closed - the flagship JJB store at Robin Park

DAVE Whelan’s DW Sports has taken on several former JJB Sports stores across the country, sparking fresh hope that the stricken retailer’s Robin Park outlet could be reopened.

The founder of JJB has long been reported to be interested in taking on some of his former company’s most profitable outlets since it went into administration last year.

But the future of Wigan’s last remaining JJB outlet - that has been left empty on Robin Park for six months - remains uncertain.

Speaking to the Evening Post, DW Sports chief executive Winston Higham remained non-committal on the Wigan shop’s possible future with his company, but said new locations were actively being sought.

He said: “The sites we will be reopening over the next few weeks will take us up to 70 retail outlets.

“We plan on continued growth in retail when we identify the sites that meet our specific requirements.”

Former JJB stores in Bristol, Cheltenham and Leicester are due to be reopened under the DW masthead in the next few weeks.

Mr Higham added: “We have taken over a number of new sites for retail stores, however, we are not just looking at former JJB sites.

“There are a number of prime empty sites out there, we look at towns and cities we feel can support a specialist sports retail store.

“There are still good retail opportunities out there and we are a value for money brand.

“We are also growing the leisure club business that now stands at 68 with the opening of our Lincoln site this month.”

Speaking when JJB’s administration was confirmed, founder Mr Whelan said: “I believe there is a maximum of 25 of 180 stores making money.

“And while a lot of the business is worthless, I would be interested in taking over some of the good stores, perhaps 20 to 30.”

Wigan’s last remaining JJB store located on Robin Park was among 133 closed when the firm went into administration last year.

All but one of the 28 strong staff were made redundant although there was a reprieve for workers at the Martland Mill based headquarters.

As part of Sports Direct’s buyout deal of 20 outlets, 258 jobs were safeguarded at the HQ although there were 153 job losses. Three of the stores not taken on by Sports Direct - owned by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley - have been leased by budget retailer B&M bargains.

Slim hopes remain that the JJB name may not disappear from the high street with the brand still being available for purchase.

While Sports Direct claimed the rights to the website and sportswear brands such as the Slazenger golf range in their pre-pack administration deal, it remains possible for a buyer to purchase some of the stores and trade under the JJB name.