A SPORTS retailer has opened two new shops in Newcastle within weeks of each other and is aiming to create 25 jobs as the business expands.
Start Fitness, based in Cramlington, has three specialist stores in Newcastle’s Grainger Street, another in the city’s Pilgrim Street plus one in Durham and one in Chester-le-Street.
It already owned Start Cycles on Grainger Street and has received a six-figure loan from Lloyds TSB Commercial to buy the property for Start Football and the lease for the adjacent Start Fitness store.
Start Fitness financial director Sean Smith said: “They are part of the same group, but they are specialists.
“So if you want a bike, you want to talk to a person who is a specialist and it’s the same with running.”
The group, which is also currently running its original Newcastle shop in Pilgrim Street as a discount store, sells a large proportion of it goods online.
But Smith said that a high-street presence is vital for the retailer, which has a £12.8m turnover that it is aiming to boost to £15m this year and to just over £18m by 2013.
“There is always going to be a need [for a high-street presence],” he said.
“We have the bulk of trade through the internet, but if you are looking for something like a bike, you want to talk to someone. There is always a place for that.
“We find they complement each other. Suppliers also like to see a high- street presence.”
He said the group was not looking to open more shops in the immediate future after opening two within six weeks of each other, but it is looking at future uses for its Pilgrim Street branch.
Smith said: “Traditionally the company, going back a few years, was just in shops which were in smaller locations.
“There were 13 or 14 in the North East and they tended to be closed as the leases were up, but now we are concentrating on bigger shops in good locations. They are complementary to the internet.”
Start Fitness, which currently employs 75 people, was initially set around 30 years ago as a specialist running equipment supplier, before expanding into running, cycling, football and gym products.
It also make sits own More Mile branded goods. Lloyds TSB has worked with Start Fitness for around two decades and has provided support for previous expansion plans.
Mike Gascoigne, relationship director for Lloyds TSB Commercial, said: “Start Fitness has demonstrated that well-managed businesses can still thrive and expand in what remains a challenging business environment, and the creation of new jobs is also great news for the local area.
“Having a good and long-standing relationship with the company has enabled us to provide ongoing guidance and support tailored to its specific needs, and the latest expansion represents a good opportunity for the company to increase its visibility to customers.
“We remain absolutely committed to supporting strong local enterprises and to helping them to take advantage of opportunities for growth and expansion, and we continue to approve eight out of 10 requests for loans and overdrafts.”