Prostar – a name recognised by most grassroots coaches and managers. Well why wouldn’t it be? It’s a brand that was at the forefront of development of amateur football team wear.
Prostar was king for many many years, in the early days Admiral and Umbro tried to steal its crown – but failed. Even Adidas’s first foray into the market failed. Prostar had firmly established itself as a firm favourite through regular design updates, an extensive range of products and its superb service levels.
So what was for a long time the premier team wear brand, it looks like the time will be coming to say farewell- ending 50 years of supply to the ‘parks’ football market. It will be wrong and remiss of us not to recognise the amazing history of this brand:
1899 – In Wakefield, West Yorkshire, RH Barker, one of the many yarn spinning mills in the city, built a sock plant on adjoining land. The Company had developed a significant market in the Leicester hosiery trade for their “Star” quality yarn and saw an opportunity to manufacture their own socks.
1901 – The Star Knitting Co Ltd was formed.
1914-18 –The entire plant was converted to produce socks for HM Forces.
1916 – Harry Archbell, a manager at Patons & Baldwins of Halifax purchased The Star Knitting Co. Ltd in a management buyout.
1920-35 – Between the wars – fuelled by the nation’s appetite for sporting excellence, Star saw their market moving into the sports trade. With no real competition, Star Socks were worn by practically every football, rugby and hockey club in the UK.
1939-1945 – During the second world war production was taken over by the requirement for military socks for the forces – reverting to sports/outdoor pursuit socks post war.
1952 – The Everest team led by Sir John Hunt selected Star climbing socks on the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain.
1967-1974 – Third generation Archbells, Richard and Paul, joined the business and expanded it into jersey and shorts production creating the only football kit company in Europe manufacturing the entire kit on one site.
1974 – The Company changed its name to Star Sportswear Ltd.
1975-2005 – Star grew and developed their expertise to become a premier brand under the “Prostar” name in the “Parks” market in the UK.
Late 1990s – With increasing sponsorship in amateur football, Star developed a range of training wear. It became the first company to colour coordinate training wear with football jerseys allowing clubs to project a more professional and corporate image.
December 2003 – Garment procurement was outsourced overseas and the manufacturing unit closed down.
November 2007 – Sock procurement was outsourced overseas and the manufacturing unit closed down.
May 2008 – Star moved to significantly larger, modern premises, ideal for its operation as a distribution business and coupled with the development of its computer systems offered a first class distribution service.
March 2010 – Purchased by Pentland Group, owners of the “Mitre” football brand.
It goes without saying that Prostar wouldn’t have survived so long without it competing at the highest level and it was well recognised for its key strengths:
- Design flair – Styles were refreshed and updated on a regular basis.
- Continuity of product – Teamwear styles remained in the catalogue for a minimum of 3 years, training wear for significantly longer.
- Extensive range – Over 4,500 sku’s in the catalogues at any one time.
- A reputation for quality – Sourcing of hard wearing, value for money fabrics linked with high quality make up.
- Strong quality control ethos – All fabrics were put through very pertinent home grown quality tests prior to cutting, and the final product also went through similar tests.
- Automated logistical systems – Provided highly accurate stock control and an excellent distribution capability.
- Excellent customer service – In general orders were consistently turned round in under 48 hours.
Most of us will know that Prostar is currently under the stewardship of Mitre. As one of the worlds biggest brands in footballs and arguably the best, they have been busy improving their own team wear ranges. Their own Primero and Polarize ranges for example have proved extremely popular and this year has seen the launch of their new Delta range – an impressive addition to a growing portfolio.
Mitre is a great brand and have taken it upon themselves to adopt many of Prostars historic strengths, delivery and service is exceptional, their footballs are found within the ranks of every grassroots club and educational establishment and of course their range is extensive and growing. Letting Prostar go must have been a difficult decision but time moves on, brands need to consolidate and maximise their strengths.
So whilst Prostar finds itself slowly saying goodbye, we welcome a new strength Mitre – lets hope they carry on the good work that Prostar achieved over the years…
We’d love to hear your thoughts on Prostar – are you sad to see them go? – were you a big fan of their team wear? Let us know what you think ?
Thanks to Doug Bedford of Protempore Management Ltd for his help with this blog post - it is most appreciated!