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Blacks Leisure Group plc ( ) of Northamptonmarker, UKmarker owns British outdoor retailers Blacks, Millets and Free Spirit. It is based at Swan Valley, Northampton. It employs 1804 people. The chief executive is Neil Gillis.

Ownership divisions


Millets, with over 260 stores, is the UK's largest travel and outdoor retailer. Its own brands that are sold within the Millets fascia are traditionally "Eurohike", "Peter Storm" and "Equator". "ALS" is another house brand that was only stocked under the Blacks fascia. Recently "ALS" has been found within Millets stores replacing "Equator" which has been mostly discontinued.

Millets was founded in 1893 by Mr J.M. Millet and had two stores in Southamptonmarker and Bristolmarker. In 1978, the company moved to Northampton. In 1986, it formed Millets Leisure plc. This became the Outdoor Group in 1996 with 158 stores, which was bought by Blacks Leisure plc in 1999.


Blacks has 110 UK stores, originally specialising in the serious walking and hiking kit. Recently they have diversified to including running clothing and more fashion based lines.

In the 1850s, Thomas Black went to Australia, prospecting for gold. He then went to Spanish Guineamarker in West Africa, where he worked for the London company Laughland and Brown as an agent, where he traded calico cotton fabric for ivory. The conditions were not good for his health so he returned to Scotland, setting up a sailmaking business in Greenockmarker in 1861. Many ships were made on the Clyde, but by the 1900s, fewer ships were powered by sail so his son Thomas (Junior) changed the business priorities to making tents instead. His father died in 1905 and he took over the company, making many tents for the Army in the First World War. He died in May 1930, and his son, D Crawford Black took over.

In 1931, it published the first Good Companions catalogue. In the Second World War, Blacks again made tents for the Army and Navy and made fender for boats on D-Day. During the early part of the war, the workshops in Greenock were destroyed by a parachute mine on 8 May 1941.

A Canadian subsidiary opened in 1958. Throughout the 1960s, it bought smaller companies. Then in 1967, it bought Benjamin Edginton Ltd, a tent maker. In 1984, it joined with Greenfields plc, then became the Black Leisure Group plc in 1985. In 1994, Blacks Camping became Blacks Outdoors.

The company manufactures the following brands for sale in its Blacks stores: "Peter Storm", "Eurohike", "ALS", "Storm Shield" and "Technicals". "Rare Species" was a further brand that has recently been withdrawn.

TECHNICALS is an outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturer owned by Blacks Leisure Group. It was launched in 2005 by The Outdoor Group, initially as a fashionable and practical outdoor clothing range. However, they soon began designing and manufacturing their waterproof and breathable eVENT range, particularly jackets and overtrousers.

Free Spirit

Free Spirit is the company's specialist surfwear retailer, with 58 UK stores. The company currently owns the Mambo and O'Neill franchises for the UK.


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