Cotton Traders

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Cotton Traders Ltd
Industry Retail
Founded 1987
Headquarters Altrincham, Greater Manchester
Key people
Fran Cotton
Steve Smith, founders
Products Rugby shirts, Leisurewear, Footwear
Website Official Website

Cotton Traders is a British clothing company, specialising in rugby apparel and leisurewear, based in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, England. It was founded in 1987 by former England national rugby union team captains Fran Cotton and Steve Smith.


Cotton Traders was founded by former England rugby players Fran Cotton and Steve Smith in 1987.[1] The company is one of UK's multi-channel retailers, employing over a 1000 staff with an annual gross turnover of more than £91million.

The company started out in a small room next to Altrincham railway station, supplying rugby shirts via mail order using advertisements in the Sunday newspapers. After two years the business had an annual turnover of £2million. New ranges covering leisurewear and casual clothes for men and women, footwear and accessories were added. Clothing retailer Next purchased a share of the business in 1997.[2]

Cotton Traders operates 125 retail stores nationwide in high street, retail outlets, garden centres, airports and motorway services locations. They also provide an overseas delivery service.

The company operates from four main buildings in Altrincham and a distribution centre in Pontefract. Cotton Traders House is responsible for the management of the company. The nearby operations site deals with customer service and the placing of customer orders through the telephone. In 2006 a vacant office building opposite Cotton Traders house was purchased and in 2012 a fourth building was added. Head office departments are split between Cotton Traders House, Cotton Mill (formerly Neptune House) and the Cotton Hub.

In 2014, Cotton and Smith purchased back the 33% share of Cotton Traders held by Next, regaining full ownership of the company.[2]

Logo legal action[edit]

Cotton Traders were the official suppliers of rugby kit to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) between 1991 and 1997, including supplying the rugby shirts worn by the England national rugby union team. As an official supplier, Cotton Traders also produced replica shirts for sale to the public. Following the loss of the contract to Nike in 1997, Cotton Traders continued producing a rugby shirt for sale in the style of the English national team, namely a white shirt with a red rose emblem on the chest. This culminated in a legal case being brought against Cotton Traders by the RFU and Nike in 2002, seeking to ban the sale of what they deemed 'unauthorised merchandise'.[3] A High Court judge ruled in favour of Cotton Traders in the case, citing that the classic style rose used on the Cotton Traders shirt was associated with England as a country or team and not the RFU specifically, and as such it could not be registered as a trade mark.[4]


Cotton Traders sponsors the following clubs:

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  1. ^ Kollewe, Julia (2007-08-27). "It's always David and Goliath ... but David wins in the end". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. 
  2. ^ a b Begum, Shelina (2014-10-21). "Cotton Traders buys back Next's stake in the business". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. 
  3. ^ Rozenberg, Joshua (2002-01-15). "War of the roses over England rugby shirt". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. 
  4. ^ "Thorny issue over rugby's rose". BBC News Online. 2002-03-26.