Clothing retailer fights back following insolvency and lockdowns

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A historic Barnsley menswear shop has bounced back from insolvency and pandemic closures to achieve record sales for its employee-led owners.

Staff at Frank Bird in Barnsley town centre now own the 82-year-old business after it fell into receivership just a few months before the pandemic.

The senior management trio, who between them have devoted over a 100 years’ service to the clothing shop, were determined to save the business, which has also operated a store in Wakefield for 40 years.

“The business was sold by the Bird family in 2008 and rebranded. It then fell into liquidation in 2019 and we were made redundant,” explained director Neil Tennant, who joined the company from school 25 years ago.

“We couldn’t stand by and see it disappear. We knew the business was viable and with a few adjustments we knew it could be a success.

“It was in a great location at the heart of both The Glass Works regeneration scheme and Eldon Street Heritage Action Zone. We felt the future was bright.”

Neil and fellow directors Mary Smith and Mark Rayner set about repairing relationships with suppliers, negotiated with the Official Receiver for fixtures and fittings and re-opened the business re-employing a dozen staff.

They were supported by three members of the Bird family Malcolm, Joanne and Gavin, who are also now shareholders.

Just six months later, COVID-19 struck but Frank Bird’s team developed an online retail site, which kept the business afloat during successive lockdowns.

“The website is like a third store to us now,” added Tennant. “We’re really proud that we’ve managed to incorporate the famous Frank Bird customer service into our online offering – we even hand deliver orders around South and West Yorkshire.

“The directors make deliveries just like everyone else and it’s a great way to keep in touch with our customers.”

He said since re-opening the stores, which stock brands such as Boss, Belstaff, Paul Smith and Armani on April 12, business has boomed.

“We’re seeing the kind of trade we see at Christmas and we’re confident it will continue. Since re-opening in April, these have been record months,” he added.

Councillor Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesman for regeneration and culture at Barnsley Council, congratulated the Frank Bird team on rescuing the business.

He said: “It is a sign of the success of Barnsley town centre that a traditional family business like Frank Bird can be so successful.

“It is vital there is a wide range of choice for all styles and types of people in the town centre. It’s fantastic to see that Frank Bird is thriving and that businesses are adapting to the age of online retail.”

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