A brief history of Withers Sports

In the beginning

It was in 1924 at the age of 12 while still at school that John Albert Withers (JAW) started as a part-time errand boy for a local Saddlery business working before and after school plus the weekends.

On leaving school in 1926 at the age of 14 he went to work for W.B.Yarnall as a Sadler and Harness maker’s apprentice. In 1940 although the war had started JAW was not called up as saddlery was classed as a reserved occupation. In the same year his employer took ill and decided to retire, offering to sell the business to JAW for £100 which he bought having first borrowed £20 from his brother.

Bob joins the business

In 1964 his youngest son Bob join the business from school at the age of 17 and it was not long before he was made a partner in the business then becoming J A WITHERS & Son.

With Bob working alongside his father the business gradually changed focus as saddlery died out sports goods took over.

Sports goods in the `60’s

The sports trade was not as we know it today with most sports people having broken strings in the rackets repaired as opposed to being restrung which was all done by hand. Cricket bats and pads were repaired over the winter months ready for the following season and footballs were still being repaired to make them last longer. In clothing there was not a great deal of choice if you played a racket sport you played in whites and canvas footwear, a far cry from the choice that people have today.

Choice grows

As business improved year on year and the choice of sports goods grew with it, the Welford Road shop became too small. In 1979 Bob moved the business 200 yards from the original Welford Road premises into Market Street and changed the name into WITHERS SPORTS.

Steve joins the business

After JAW retired Bob took over the running of the business single-handedly but in 1996 made his manager Steve Brett a partner and over the next 10 years ownership transferred from Bob to Steve.

The business is one of Leicester’s oldest and has seen many changes over the past 80 years. The secret of its success are that it is has always been prepared to change, which it has done most successfully in its specialisation of the racket sports, and of course most importantly the personal and professional attention given to all its customers.

Adapting to circumstances

The trick for survival and growth has always been adapting to what is put in front of you. Well we have had to adapt in the last 11 months (and counting) for sure! Each new situation creates a challenge, 2020, with the COVID pandemic has certainly offered our greatest challenge to date. We have approached it as positively as we can, we have been totally focussed on not only just getting through 2020 but creating new initiatives that when coming out of it, will add value to our business.

Withersonline.com has had a massive facelift and we will continue to develop it. Locally we offer a specialist delivery and pick up service, taking the shop to doorsteps, we’ve offered a virtual shopping experience and evening appointments (when allowed). It’s been truly heart wrenching but we’ve had fantastic support and plenty of well wishers, making what we are trying to achieve so worth while.

JAW as a young apprentice
J A Withers
Withers Merket Street Shop outside
Withers Intersport sign