End of an era as historic cycle shop set to shut

Tony Ratcliffe outside his shop, which will close this weekend
Tony Ratcliffe outside his shop, which will close this weekend

One of the oldest businesses in Leigh town centre will bring the curtain down on more than 100 years of selling bicycles this weekend.

Ratcliffe’s of Leigh will close down on Saturday after numerous attempts to find a buyer for the cycle store were unsuccessful.

We’re the oldest shop in Leigh and the oldest business in the town centre, so it’s definitely the end of an era.

Tony Ratcliffe

The firm has been at its Bradshawgate location since 1910 and was started by William Ratcliffe, grandfather of current owner Tony, in 1896.

Tony, who is retiring, said he was extremely sad he could not find anyone to take the business on as it has served generations of many Leigh families.

Tony, 67, said: “We’ve had a real rollercoaster with four potential buyers dropping out at the last minute and enough’s enough.

“I can’t see anybody coming forward to take it on now so we’re concentrating on selling off the stock and getting things sorted out.

“It’s a very sad situation. We get people coming in buying bikes for their children saying their father bought something from the shop for them. Some people have had seven, eight

or nine bikes from us.

“We’re the oldest shop in Leigh and the oldest business in the town centre, so it’s definitely the end of an era.

“I would have loved for it to continue as a bike shop but it’s following a trend of specialist shops closing down.”

The final day of business at Ratcliffe’s will be on Saturday and Tony says it will be a strange feeling as he has worked there for 45 years.

The business has seen many ups and downs with cycling rising and falling in popularity over the decades.

At one point Ratcliffe’s owned five shops across Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley and Tony says he believes traditional stores still have advantages over the growing competition from online retail.

He said: “When I first started people used cycles as a workhorse. Old pictures of Leigh from the ‘50s and ‘60s show hundreds of people leaving BICC on their bikes. Cars then took over before bikes came back as a fun thing.

“The success at the Olympics and Bradley Wiggins has helped but parents also want to get kids off their computers and iPads and have them in the fresh air getting exercise.

“There have also been economic ups and downs and the latest challenge is the internet. When you buy online you just get a big box to assemble, you can’t be sized up, given a guarantee, given somewhere to go when there are repairs.

“It’s old-fashioned but that has been our way.”

Although Ratcliffe’s will close on Saturday Tony says the shop will re-open on the first weekend in December to give customers the bicycles which are being kept in storage for Christmas.

Tony also said he will miss interacting with the Leigh public.

He said: “Talking to the customers is great. A lot of people in Leigh are very genuine, salt of the earth. It’s been a pleasure to deal with them and they have made life interesting.”