IT’S ‘business as usual’ at popular local sports chain Clubsport’s five Herefordshire locations.

All its thriving sports stores will remain open – as will its Animal clothing shop in Hereford – despite one part of the business going into administration.

Managing director Simon Hussey was quick to quash rumours that the fate of Clubsport Kington Ltd – the side of the business responsible for its 12 Animal stores – means that stores in the county will be shutting their doors.

The company has already bought back five of the Animal stores, including the Hereford and Worcester locations, and is expanding its retail reach as the first-ever UK partner for popular US footwear brand Sketchers.

Mr Hussey: “It is sad when you have to close stores – people will lose jobs – but we looked at every possibility before doing that. The Animal stores were underperforming.

“But the sports stores are definitely not closing – they are a different part of the business – and the Hereford Animal store will stay open.”

Since 1985, the Hereford-based company has grown to become the largest independent sports retailer in the Marches and Mid Wales – and is split into its sports stores, online business and trophy and medal supplier CSK.

However a new venture, opening a flagship Skechers store in Cardiff, will add a new string to the Clubsport bow, insists Mr Hussey.

He said: “I’m excited – we’ve been looking for the possibility to do something different for a while and the Sketchers partnership gave us the opportunity to get involved in a big footwear brand.

“We’re opening a store in the centre of Cardiff – we’re going in all guns blazing.”

Clubsport has been selling Skechers – the second most popular footwear brand in America – for years, but has just signed on as its UK partner to help launch the brand this side of the Atlantic.

On closing Animal stores in north and south Wales, Mr Hussey cited the same problems retailers up and down the UK are facing.

Changing consumer habits, high rents and inflexible council rates all contributed to the closures – however the company were able to buy back its Hereford, Worcester, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Swansea stores as part of a restructuring process.

Clubsport owns sports stores in Hereford, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury and Kington.