A FAMILY business that grew from one man selling slippers into a Lancashire institution employing over 200 people celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month.

Winfields Outdoors, based at Hazel Mill in Acre, near Haslingden, hopes to mark the milestone in style after what the company says has been a strong year for trading.

Founded by the late Dale Winfield, the clothing and outdoor equipment specialist is now led by his wife June and their children Joe and Janine.

Joe Winfield said: “We are exceptionally pleased to have reached our fiftieth year of trading and to continue my father’s legacy.

“This year marks a real milestone in the lifetime of the Winfields brand as we remain aspirational in our plans of growth, continually bettering the way we operate and the service we provide to our customers.”

The company’s story began in 1971 when Rawtenstall-born Dale Winfield was offered a batch of odd slippers as a swap for an old crane on the back of his van.

Mr Winfield had previously worked as a miner around Bacup, having started at the age of 14, and then as a welder, hod carrier and tree-feller.

However, the family say that he realised there was more money to be made from slippers than firewood and he began selling them from an old Co-op building in Edenfield.

He then bought Holmes Mill in Rawtenstall, initially using it to repair and sell shoes wholesale and later went into retail, opening stores in Blackburn, Middleton, Hull and Barrow during this time.

Mr Winfield then opened the Hazel Mill store, where the company he founded is still based today, in 1976.

The large store was an instant hit with people from East Lancashire and beyond looking for good-value footwear.

The prediction he made proved correct as the business grew from a one-man band to become one of Lancashire best-known shoe retailers before then expanding into camping equipment, outdoor wear, workwear and leisure wear.

Mr Winfield died in 2015 aged 70 after having been diagnosed with bowel cancer, leaving children Claire, Suzanne, Jodie, Janine and Joe and grandchildren Poppy, Max, Troy and Reece.

However his wife June, who had originally met her husband while working at the company, has carried on his work alongside their children since then.

Today, the company employs more than 200 people, is one of the largest independent family focused outdoor retailers in the UK and, as well as Haslingden, has stores in Chester, Feckenham, Garforth, Hull, Keswick and Measham.

Despite the challenges of recent times, with the coronavirus pandemic rocking businesses across the country, the Winfield family hope to remain fixtures of the Lancashire business landscape long into the future.

Joe Winfield said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal customers, those who have been with us all these 50 years and those who have only just discovered us "The simple reality is that their continued support is the reason we have remained doing what we love to do for all these years, especially during recent times."