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Shop celebrates 150 years of serving their 'well-heeled' customers

Friday November 5, 2010 at 3:01pm

Sheffield Star 5th November 2010

The BBC1 programme puts modern-day shopkeepers in specially-created period shops in a Somerset town to see how they could have coped with trading in eras from 1870 to 1970.

Pettits of Mexborough has been there and done that.

The High Street shoe and leather goods shop has stood the test of time and this year celebrates its 150th anniversary.

It is surviving the current recession but also the tough times from the past, such as the 1930s depression and the effects of the 1984 miners' strike.

So much that so that it has been able to expand and has taken on shops in Beverley, Bridlington and Retford – but the Mexborough shop is still the most popular.

The Pettit family still run the operation, with Peter Pettit in charge but planning to pass the reins on to his son, Paul.

The business was started in 1860 when Peter's great-grandfather, William Squirrel-Pettit, bought the shop and started selling boots, shoes and saddlery.

Since then the business has grown to the stage where the firm employs 55 people and also runs a cafe in the Mexborough shop to boost annual turnover to over 1 million.

Peter said: "We get generations of the same family coming – they bring their children and grandchildren to where they got their first pair of shoes and we have staff who have been here decades.

"But it's not like the Grace Brothers comedy series – my son has come into the business and he is bringing in new brands which I wouldn't have any idea about. I think that is part of what keeps us going."

Although Peter says Meadowhall has not had a detrimental effect on the shop, the firm has had to adjust its prices to compete with big chain stores which can buy ranges in bigger quantities.

But the history of Pettits has even helped attract high-flying staff like retail marketing graduate Ben Burrows, who was offered the post of manager at the Mexborough branch.

"I love the fact that I can have an influence, with the directors on site so we can talk about how to move forward," he said.

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