Keith Martin, the former owner of independent footwear retailer Bells Shoes, is returning to the business he bought in 1960 – rescuing it from closure.
The Buxton-based retailer had originally planned to close its doors for good on 4 August. However, 77-year-old Martin is set to take over the store from his youngest son, Edward Martin, and reopen in mid-September after a refurbishment.
In March, Bells Shoes said it was winding down its online operations after Clarks and Bells failed to agree new terms, which affected its ability to stock and sell the brand online. At the time, around 95% of Bell’s Shoes turnover came from online sales.
Keith Martin said the online business would now stay open “for the foreseeable future”. Martin, who acquired the business in 1960 from the Bell family, will step back into a front-line role to manage the store, and his eldest son, John Martin, will continue to operate the three Clarks franchises the business runs in Buxton, Macclesfield and Leek. Edward Martin is expected to leave the business.
Keith Martin said: “I am 77 years old now, but I have as much enthusiasm as I had way back in 1960 when I bought the business. I believe that in a year or two, there will be a change in peoples’ habits and they will go back to basics and do some proper shopping again.
“People tell me they are a bit fed up with the internet as they have to get stuff back to a shop or collection point and there’s a lot of hassle involved. I have seen the wheel turn and I am positive there will be a resurgence in the high street, particularly with the smaller, independent shops.
“We are excited at the challenges ahead and I cannot wait to get started again. Believe me, if I felt that there was no future for Buxton I would never have made this commitment.”
Commenting on decision to stop supplying Bells’ online business a spokesman for Clarks said: “We had been discussing the basis of our trading relationship with Bells and the terms upon which they bought product from us for some time. We were unable to agree on terms going forward and subsequently made the difficult decision to end our trading relationship.
“As a valued partner, we had offered extended support to Bells running into 2019 as they transitioned their business away. We wish Bells Shoes and its team all the very best.”