Ice hockey and figure skating store set to spin into Coventry
An ice sports specialist has made a five figure investment to open a new 5,000sq ft superstore in Coventry.
The new Willies retail venture at Challenge Business Park will open with a family fun weekend on the 17th and 18th June.
The store is the result of a £60,000 investment to create a one-stop shop for everything ice hockey, inline hockey and figure skating, including skates, sticks, clothing and protective equipment.
The opening marks a major expansion for the company, which was previously based in Earlsdon at a retail premises a quarter of the size of the new store, a stone’s throw from the SkyDome Arena, home to Elite Ice Hockey League side Coventry Blaze.
Inspired by the ice sports shops in Sweden and the US, the store will stock a range of products from leading brands, alongside demo and simulation areas.
The new Willies store will also offer a unique fitting service with pioneering 3D scanners to measure a customer’s head or feet to find the perfect equipment, while its repair shop can undertake the most complex repairs such as turning ice skates into roller boots.
Owner Luke Wilson set up the business with a friend in 2017 after being given free tickets to a Coventry Blaze game a few years earlier and falling in love with the sport.
“I hadn’t played ice hockey or anything before, but after watching that first game, I was completely and utterly hooked,” said the former engineer, who for the first two years ran the company in tandem with his own building testing firm.
Joining recreational side Coventry Spitfires and immersing himself in the game, Wilson started to form relationships with clubs to ice hockey brands, prompting him to launch his new venture with friend Jonathan Hill, who also played ice hockey recreationally.
“We were chatting over a pint about the fact there was no shop for ice hockey in Coventry and Midlands teams had to travel a long way to pick up equipment,” he said.
“We saw a gap in the market and with Jonathan’s background in retail management for brands such as Aldi, we set up the shop in Earlsdon. It involved a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Even my wife, who was eight months pregnant, helped get it all ready.”
From an initial investment of £15,000, Willies has gone from turning over £120,000 in 2017 to around £1.5m in 2023.
The team has also grown from two to 11, including sales assistant Calista Kou, a competition figure skater in Asia for two years who now balances her job at Willies with studying for a biosciences degree at the University of Warwick.