Long-serving staff save Barnsley menswear store Frank Bird from closure after buying 80-year-old family business themselves

Staff at a historic Barnsley menswear shop stepped in to save the much-loved family business when it was threatened with closure.

The Frank Bird store in Barnsley
The Frank Bird store in Barnsley

The group of three now own Frank Bird in Barnsley town centre after the 82-year-old business fell into receivership just a few months before the pandemic.

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

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“The business was sold by the Bird family in 2008 and rebranded. It then fell into liquidation in 2019 and we were made redundant,” said 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 rebuilt relationships with suppliers, negotiated with the Official Receiver for fixtures and fittings and re-opened the business, re-employing a dozen colleagues.

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 moved fast to establish an online retail site, which kept the business afloat during lockdowns.

“The website is like a third store to us now,” added Neil. “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.”

Since re-opening the stores, which stock brands such as Hugo 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.”

The Glass Works is set to open at the end of this year, bringing names such as Nando’s, Cineworld, Superbowl UK and Flannels to the town centre - joining the popular new JD Sports and Deichmann stores on Cheapside.

“We saw a massive opportunity with The Glass Works and that’s one of the reasons we had so much confidence to take over the business,” said Neil.

“The potential is huge and we’re really positive and proud that we’re a part of it. The whole area is going to be really inviting and it’s brilliant to see the new public square taking shape.”

Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture at Barnsley Council, congratulated the Frank Bird team on rescuing the historic business and bouncing back from numerous challenges including the pandemic.

“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 that 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.”