As the move away from a rural-based economy has scythed the number of jobs requiring Brits to work outdoors, an increasing number of us yearn to spend our downtime up close and personal with Mother Nature.
And while our professional lives might require nothing more exerting of us than an amble to the photocopier, in our leisure time it would seem that we are keen to head hotfoot up a heathery hillside (preferably a Munro), set up camp beside a roaring river or abseil down a craggy cliff face.
This passion for the great outdoors and readiness to tackle some of the planet’s most inhospitable places – not to mention its most severe weather conditions – has led to a boom in the demand for professional outdoors clothing and equipment including gloves, jackets, leggings, ropes, tents and a miscellany of other related equipment.
In 1930, when an enterprising English gentleman, Mr White, first opened a shop in modest premises on Bridge Street in the quiet county town of Northampton, he could scarcely have foreseen the vibrant future ahead of his fledgling company. Nor could he have dared, in his wildest dreams, to imagine that 72 years later the company would be selling a range of top outdoor clothing, footwear and camping equipment brands online at the click of a mouse.
Appropriately, the outdoors specialists opted to call their online presence e-Outdoor, and since the launch of the eponymous website in 2002, the virtual side of the business has gone from strength to strength. Yet, at the same time, the company has remained faithful to its early 20th century origins by retaining its headquarters in Bridge Street, Northampton, albeit on a far larger scale.
Only No. 13 was occupied by Mr White’s store originally, selling a combination of practical country clothing, uniforms for scouts and equipment for camping. The location proved propitious, and the shop’s reputation for quality grew steadily, with the company keeping abreast of changes in demand and stocking the latest developments in clothing, footwear and equipment for lovers of the great outdoors.
On 25 May 1950, two decades after its foundation, the business became a limited company, before eventually being handed down to Mr White’s son some years later.
Over time, numbers 15 and 17 Bridge Street came on the market and were added to the company’s premises at No. 13, thereby allowing White & Bishop to expand the ranges they stocked and increase their turnover. As outdoor pursuits gained in popularity, and as public awareness grew of the importance of being adequately prepared to tackle nature’s often challenging conditions, demand continued to increase and in time a new White & Bishop shop opened its doors in Rugby.
Meanwhile, in Northampton, number 17 Bridge Street was developed to specialise solely in outdoor gear and more staff were employed, and currently White & Bishop has 20 highly trained staff at the Northampton premises alone. These days the company stocks an impressive range of trusted names in outdoor gear such as Berghaus, Craghoppers, The North Face and Barbour.
So whatever modern-day adventure lovers are after – from rucksacks to rain repellent jackets, from walking boots to water bottles, or from carabiners to Kendall mint cake, the e-Outdoor website or the White & Bishop stores in Northampton and Rugby are all well worth a visit, whether you’re gearing up for a month-long expedition to the Andes or a family camping weekend in the Yorkshire Dales.