Derek Barnard who is closing his shop Barnard Sports in Attleborough. Photograph Simon Parker

Attleborough sports shop set to close as a result of owner’s ill health

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
6.30 AM

The owner of Norfolk’s oldest independently-run sports shop spoke of his sadness after starting a closing down sale as a result of ill health.

Barnard Sports has been in the heart of Attleborough for more than 60 years and has been an institution for amateur sportspeople, particularly in cricketing circles.

Owner Derek Barnard said he began a closing down sale after being told that he had less than six months to live after being diagnosed with secondary liver cancer.

The 58-year-old said he had been undergoing chemotherapy for nine of the last 11 months and was told last week that there was nothing more doctors could do for him.

Mr Barnard said his diagnosis had forced him to advance plans to shut up shop at the family-run store in Queen’s Square and the store would close when all the stock has been sold.

Barnard Sports was established by local man Fred Barnard in 1950 and his son Derek took over in 1986 following the death of its founder. The shop has built a reputation in being experts in cricket bats and cricketing equipment.

Mr Barnard said he believed that his shop was potentially the oldest independent sports store in East Anglia and it was becoming increasingly difficult for independent sports shops because of competition from online retailers.

“It is really difficult in the High Street because our overheads are so great and people are using the internet. We offer a personal service and that has kept us going. I can not see how any sports shop competing with the internet is going to survive,” he said.

Mr Barnard said he had planned to keep the shop going for another few years.

“I do not feel sad for myself or my family. This is not how I wanted to end my life, but I have had the most fantastic time in the last ten years. I will miss my customers greatly and a lot have become good friends,” he said.

Mr Barnard said his cricket fan father opened his Attleborough shop as a general store with sports shop and it was turned solely into a sports shop 15 years ago.

He added that part of the business would continue after the shop closes with his daughter, Liza Firmage, carrying on with a sports trophy engraving service from home.