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Jarrold expands into Cambridge after deal to buy Hobbs Sports

06:55 21 May 2014

Norwich retailer Jarrold has bought the Hobbs Sports store in Cambridge

Norwich retailer Jarrold has bought the Hobbs Sports store in Cambridge

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Norfolk retailer Jarrold has established a foothold in Cambridge after acquiring the Hobbs Sports Shop in Sidney Street.

Sporting legacy

Hobbs Sports traces its origins back to a sports shop opened in London’s Fleet Street in 1926 by Sir Jack Hobbs, a well-known England cricketer.

His younger brother Sidney ran the shop until returning to Cambridge to open his own store. In 2006, the business took over Cambridge’s other famous sports store, Grays Sports (founded in 1855 by Harry Gray, the world champion racket’s player) and since then has traded from its current location on Sidney Street.

Jarrold which previously bought the Pilch sports store in Norwich about a decade ago and successfully relocated it to London Street in the city, completed the undisclosed deal last week.

Peter Mitchell Jarrold group managing director said sport could yield the key for the independent store’s bid to compete on the high street against major discount retailers, and the firm was looking to acquire similar businesses in other East Anglian towns.

“Pilch has moved forward to the point where we feel we can roll it out as an independent sports business,” he said. “Hobbs is the Cambridge equivalent. The Cambridge market is an exciting place to be. We have looked at a number of opportunities over the last couple of years, but felt this was right. It’s a slightly smaller business than Pilch but very much of the same ethos.

“Over the next year we will look for a third and maybe a fourth. We will always stay as a regional retailer.

“I do think sport is an area which is underserved at the quality end of the market. It’s dominated by discounters that serve a large chunk of the market.

“It’s taken us a few years to work out how we compete successfully. Having gait analysis for runners looking for running shoes is the sort of thing you don’t find being done by the discount operators.

“Our growth as a business is coming through our online business, where we have got strong growth coming through, which is exciting. We are in positive growth trading in the offline business. I am certainly more optimistic now than I was 12 months ago about the perspective for retail as a whole.”

David Pimblett, owner of Hobbs, said: “Hobbs Sports has been my business and a central part of my life for nearly three decades so it was not an easy decision to make when Jarrolds approached me with an offer. I will be leaving a great team in store, and I am confident that Jarrolds will take the Hobbs business forward, building on what we have achieved and doing so with the same ambition to be a high quality independent sports specialist.”

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