Long standing Doncaster store Bradley Knipe rings the changes with British brands and on-line plansÂ

Dating back to the early 60s, it's one of the most familiar names on the Doncaster high street.Â

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 17th January 2019, 9:07 am
Updated Friday, 18th January 2019, 12:32 am
Bradley Knipe Menswear, High Street, Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-BradleyKnipe-3
Bradley Knipe Menswear, High Street, Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-BradleyKnipe-3

But time has not stood still for the longstanding Doncaster menswear store Bradley Knipe.

When the store first opened in 1962, it was based largely around fitted suits and formal outfits.

Bradley Knipe Menswear, High Street, Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-BradleyKnipe-3

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But more than half a century later, things are very different.

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Carl and Ron Bradley, pictured at their High Street Menswear store. Picture: NDFP-18-12-18-BradleyKnipe-1

Six years ago, the firm moved from its previous location on Wood Street, to take up a new store on High Street.

And the new year is set to see changes, with the firm embracing the digital age by unveiling a dedicated website for the first time, and by bringing in new British lines of clothing.

The firm was set up by Ron Bradley, now aged 84, who still comes into the shop,which is now run by his son, Carl, who has worked at the store since he was still at school.

Ron and friend John Knipe decided to set up their own shop while they were working together at Burtons in the 60s, and initially opened one in Scunthorpe.

Shortly afterwards, the opened in Doncaster as well.

As time went on, Ron, from Doncaster, ran the Doncaster store, while John ran the Scunthorpe one. At one point they had three shops, with a third one having opened in Retford, but that one closed after the site was bought up for a major supermarket development.

They split the partnership 20 years ago, but the Bradley Knipe name remained.

Carl, now aged 55, joined full time as a 16-year-old, although he had  worked there on Saturdays while he was still a pupil at Ellers High School in Bessacarr.

'I think we are certainly one of the oldest independent shops in Doncaster,' said Ron.

The move to High Street was a big change, but one current manager Carl is pleased they made.

He said: 'It was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking. We are more prominent here than we were on Wood Street. We've been there for 30 years and I certainly don't regret moving.

'We used to be more tailors and outfitters, made to measure suits '“ but now we only sell casual.

'We gradually moved away from formal, and stopped selling it a couple of years ago. We do premium menswear, the higher end of the market.'

With Christmas out of the way, the shop is looking to the future in 2019.

A range of new clothes is coming in, with British brands intended to give the store a specialist niche.

'We are moving towards brands,' said Carl. 'For us, its about trying to find something that's a bit niche, and a bit away from what the big chains are doing, trying to be individual as a shop.

'You go to some towns and find all the shops are the same. We don't want to be like that.'

So next year will see a number of new brands brought in '“ the British brands of Bellstaff, Paul Smith, Barbour, Sunspell, John Smedley and Univeral Works. Some of those are British made.

Carl believes there is a feeling for British brands.

The new year will also bring a new website for the firm, as it embraces the digital age. It is due to go live in February.

'I don't see us competing with Amazon, and I wouldn't want to,' he said. 'But I think it is a necessary thing for us to do now.

'We would be doing click and collect, but we'll also be doing mail order. I think its all about what people can do with their mobile phones now. It is about diversifying and finding new ways to do things.

'But the thing that you get in the shop that you don't get elsewhere is service and product knowledge. We know how the products are made, we know the sizes, how large a '˜large' size is.'

Ron has seen many changes on the Doncaster high street in the 50 years since he first opened the shop. And he believes there are positive signs for the future in Doncaster town centre.

'I think Doncaster's a decent place to come shopping,' he said. 'It's flat for a start in terms of the ground, so you're not climbing up hills. 

'And I think its going to get better because there is work being done by the council to try to make the town more attractive, like what's going on on Hallgate, to allow for pavement cafes. You have to give people a reason to come to town, not just to shop, but to enjoy the ambience.'

Carl added: 'The big chains want to get in everywhere, but they can't do what the independents do, and there are some cracking independent shops in Doncaster.'

~We are running a series of features to showcase the variety of shops in Doncaster town centre as part of our Love Your High Street campaign.