Trends & Features

The Insider: Jamie Elphick of No Limitz in Bedford

What’s the history behind No Limitz?
We opened as a good old fashioned sports shop in 2001. My brother Phil and I are both Bedford born and bred and growing up all we wanted to do was play sport. Rugby was our main love and by 2001 we were both playing for Bedford Blues.

As we became involved with sport at a higher level, we found it harder and harder to find a good sports shop, so we decided to open our own. The business grew quickly enough that after a few years our younger brother Simon joined us. We’ve been fortunate to experience steady growth ever since.

How has business changed since you opened?
When we first opened we concentrated on traditional sports such as rugby, hockey and cricket. But over time we’ve expanded into running and racquet sports, along with smaller categories such as swimming and home fitness.

What’s the biggest change you’ve made?

In 2005 we bought our own printing and embroidery machinery, which has had a huge impact. A couple of years later we moved into the schoolwear market, meaning we were able to work with Bedford School and provide them with a new on-site school shop. Printing and embroidery has opened up many opportunities and schoolwear is going from strength to strength as more schools come on board.

Why don’t you have a an ecommerce website?

Online retailing is a tricky one. The temptation to go after volume is ever present, but deep down we feel a lot of the products we sell need to be seen and touched before buying.

We offer customers a chance to test out bats and hockey sticks in our Skillz Zone and our runners are encouraged to take advantage of the gait analysis service we offer. I’m not ruling online out, but I’m keen to see how that market develops over the coming months and years. 

Do you specialise in anything?
It’s our aim to be a specialist in all we do. I believe we achieve that with the range we stock and the service we offer in all major sports, with the possible exception of football. We aim to cater for all levels, but the fact that we stock the top end of product ranges gives us specialist status. 

What are your current best-selling products/brands?
Our brands include the big names you’d expect to see in a sports shop, such as Nike, Puma, Adidas and Under Armour, but as a specialist we also do well with brands like Asics, CCC, Gray-Nicolls, Gilbert, Kookaburra and Gunn & Moore.

In terms of products, it’s hard to be specific, as there are big seasonal variations, but one area where we’ve seen a big rise in sales is wearable technology, specifically from Polar, TomTom and Fitbit.

Who are your competitors?
We’ve been in business for 15 years and have seen the sports market change massively, particularly in how many more discount merchants there are around. It’s pointless trying to compete with them on price, so we don’t. Instead, we offer an alternative – quality products that are in stock and sold with good customer service. As a specialist retailer, we also have an edge over the competition.

How do you ensure repeat custom?
In 2014 we moved to a new 8000 sq ft premises, which has allowed us to offer a more spacious layout and enhance the customer experience through interactive areas, such as our Run, Tech and Skillz Zone. We combine this with excellent customer service to keep people coming back for more.

How do you find out about new products?

We’re a member of Intersport and this helps us stay on top of what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not.

What do you like most about your business?

I like the fact the times are constantly changing and there are always new opportunities and challenges to explore.

And the least?

The downside of the business is the pressure on time. The workload means it’s difficult to manage a healthy work-life balance.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The move from the town centre to a premises on the outskirts. We’d been in the town centre for 13 years, but even though fitting it out took up a huge amount of time and the legal side of it was very complicated, we’ve never looked back.

Our customers have been incredibly supportive and grateful for the move. Firstly, it’s easier to park, but also because they don’t have to drive through town, where the traffic’s a nightmare.

What plans do you have for the business?

To be continually on the lookout for new opportunities to grow our brand and also make sure we don’t become complacent in anything we already do.

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