STAFF who worked for years at a historic sports shop in Oxford are setting up a new business in the Covered Market.

Elmer Cotton, which opened in 1911 and claimed to be the UK’s oldest sports shop, closed in December and was expected to trade online only.

Despite tough trading conditions on the high street the game is not yet up for sports gear sales and three staff who worked at Elmer Cotton in Turl Street will now trade from inside the historic market as a brand new business.

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Dale Harris, 37, who worked at Elmer Cotton for 19 years, is to open Blue Blood in the former Macsamillion shoe shop.

He will be working with Ben Cook and Steliana Stefanova.

Father-of-four Mr Harris said: “We are all previous employees of Elmer Cotton but this is a new business.

“It was sad when the Elmer Cotton shop closed and we felt we had to put a new business together and open a sports shop in Oxford.

“I think the vibe could be similar - we will go for a traditional but quirky feel.

“We want it to be the place people in Oxford come for all their sports wear and equipment.

“We will do lots for Oxford colleges, including sports clothes for on and off the field, and we will cater for local schools.”

Swimming, rugby, cricket, football and tennis will all be covered, Mr Harris added.

He said the sports shop would occupy two floors at the former Macsamillion store, which would help with storage.

Signs have now gone up in the market to show that shop will soon be opening and the lease is being finalised with the landlords the city council.

Mr Harris added: “Staff at the council have been very supportive and have helped to move this forward quickly.”

Paul Birtles, who runs the Garden of Oxford flower shop, and is chairman of the Covered Market Tenants’ Association, said he was delighted that the former Elmer Cotton staff were launching their new business.

He said: “This is one of the best things I have heard for a while.

“It’s great news for the market because shoppers will come here because they want to visit their store.”

Mary Clarkson, executive board member for culture, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Blue Blood into the Covered Market community. This will complement the outdoor wear of Leonard Jay and the more niche sportswear of Oxford Skate Co and the Oxford United Club Shop. We have a good number of prospective traders looking to move in."