When Elmer Cotton’s historic run as an Oxford sports shop ended in Turl Street, some of the staff took a gamble and decided to set up their own store.

The gamble paid off, and when Blue Blood opened in the Covered Market in early 2019, former customers stayed loyal and business built steadily.

Then, just as trade was picking up, the pandemic struck and, like many firms, Blue Blood had to ‘pivot’ and try new ways of making money.

Now run by Ben Cook and Dale Harris, the business is looking to the future after surviving tough times in 2020 due to repeated lockdowns.

Read again: Fundraiser for Eynsham footballer who died after car crash

Mr Cook said: “The first year went really well - better than we expected as Elmer Cotton customers stuck with us and we really appreciated that local support.


“Then of course the pandemic struck and we had to do what a lot of companies were forced to do - adapt to the changing circumstances very quickly.

“We started to do a lot of printing teamwear and embroidery and we supplied face masks for the university and the colleges and for businesses.

“We were supplying high quality breathable masks which were also embroidered and we also supplied reflective vests.”

Mr Cook said one of the key reasons Blue Blood survived the pandemic was communications - staying in touch with customers about kit they needed.

“We tried to stay in touch as much as possible and I think that made a big difference,” Mr Cook added.

Read more: Anger over Oriel College's new Rhodes plaque

“As a result, our relationships with clubs, schools and colleges grew over that period.

“We came out the other side in a good position and business started to pick up again.”

Mr Cook, a co-director with Mr Harris, said demand for kit and sports equipment was high once Covid restrictions were relaxed in the summer.

He added: “Some teams hadn’t played for a while and kids discovered they had grown out of their kits.

“It was amazing - there was quite a rush on - we definitely thrive on people coming through the door.


“When that rush came we really got back into gear and now the students are back we have been selling lots of puffa jackets and fleeces. We are getting back to where we want to be and are thinking about hiring some extra staff and getting some extra storage space.”

Read more: Bus will remain stuck in home for two weeks

Mr Cook said some weeks this year at the city council-owned market the aisles have been full of customers.

“When that happens there is a real buzz about the place but I want it to happen week in week out,” he said.

“I would like to see more people making the Covered Market a destination so when they get off the bus they make a point of coming here. More advertising of the market around the city centre could help.”