Town centre unit to be sportswear shop once again

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A major sportswear store is returning to Chorley’s town centre, following plans by Wigan Athletic FC owner Dave Whelan to further expand his DW Sports chain.

That will mean the creation of around 20 new jobs at the former JJB Sports shop site in Market Street, in what will become his current firm’s 73rd sports store.

A statement from the firm said the group was “delighted to announce the acquisition of the former JJB Sports Store on Market Street, Chorley, as the Dave Whelan family-owned business continue to expand their leisure and retail

company.”

The store will become DW Sports’ seventh sole retail store and will see the arrival of the DW Sports Store in central Chorley, taking its overall estate to 73 stores.

The statement continued: “DW Sports Store Chorley will be shortly opening, with some fantastic opening offers.”

The store will offer renowned brands including Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Asics, with a focus on running, fitness, football and rugby, and brands including Mi-Fit, Skin360, Rugid and Studio2,

The statement added: “The new DW Sports Store will create approximately 20 new jobs for the local community.”

Dave Whelan said of the opening: “It is part of our continuous strategy to open good value sports stores with fantastic products for all sport and fitness enthusiasts.

“We strive to offer a fantastic range of sporting clothing and equipment. It is our intention to make the DW Sports Store Chorley one of our top retail stores.”

The DW Sports Fitness chain was set up in March 2009 after Dave Whelan bought 52 JJB fitness clubs and adjoining sports stores for £83.4m.

The chain has prospered since, and currently has nearly 70 fitness clubs.

The founder and chairman of Dave Whelan Sports Ltd previously had a presence in the town with the JJB Sports store on the same Market Street site.

But a year ago the chain - by then sold on by Dave Whelan - ran into financial troubles, at risk of closing as it was announced that administrators KPMG had been called in to deal with the ailing firm.

As it was, the Chorley store was among 20 in the country saved under a buy-out by its main rival firm Sports Direct, a move that initially saved around 550 jobs, including seven at the Market Street store.

JJB’s 133 other stores closed straight away, resulting in around 2,200 redundancies, including shops in Bolton, Preston, Lancaster, Burnley, Accrington and Wigan.

Meanwhile, in little more than four years, DW Sports has established itself as a thriving concern in both the fitness club and sports retail markets.

The firm’s fitness clubs now have in excess of 260,000 members.

Away from his business, Whelan was a professional footballer with Blackburn Rovers FC, but was forced to retire early due to an injury in the 1960 FA Cup Final.

Yet he turned that devastating setback into a breath-taking business success story.

He initially took over a single sports shop in Wigan and built that into a 400-plus retail superstore giant before selling the JJB business in 2007.

He also bought Wigan Athletic FC, and was responsible for their fairytale story, bank-rolling the club’s rise from the bottom tier of the Football League to the Premier League.