The 103-year-old sportswear brand has finally notched up its first UK store, and has an appetite for more.
Jacobson Group managing director Harvey Jacobson is standing on the trading floor of his first Gola Classics store in the UK. Proud of the shop and its location, Jacobson bills London’s Carnaby Street as being “the coolest street in the country”.
Jacobson is a hands-on-owner and prior to the store’s unveiling in May, he travelled back and forth between the Jacobson Group’s head office in Rawtenstall in Lancashire and Carnaby Street. He could often be seen pacing the landmark stretch assessing footfall, and working out the potential benefits of opening the 103-year-old sportswear brand’s first store in the UK.
“Are you supposed to open here as a flagship store to promote your brand, or to make money?” Jacobson asks rhetorically. The benefit of a Carnaby Street store to any brand’s marketing strategy is priceless and Jacobson knows it.
Gola has six stores globally, two in Japan and four in Argentina, and Jacobson is eyeing Milan in Italy and SoHo in New York, as well as Dublin’s Grafton Street, as possible future locations.
The 835sq ft Carnaby Street site was formerly occupied by cosmetics store Lush and the basement still has the saccharine sweet smell of the retailer’s fizzy bath bombs. The location is a prime pitch on Carnaby Street.
As for Gola’s new store, Jacobson says the shopfit was “just cobbled together” in house. The store is flooded with light and a window display of trainers hanging staggered on invisible strings keeps snap-happy tourists entertained, as they stop to have their photos taken in front of the store.
“They love the Britishness of the brand,” says Jacobson. “The heritage means a lot, particularly for our international business.”
In overseas markets Gola Classics holds more of a premium market position, while domestically its customer base is predominantly made up of students. The store reflects this mix, with gold and silver slim-line trainers catering for continental shoppers, and classic Gola Redford bags adorning the entire back wall.
With shelving running around the entire circumference of the store, glass boxes house original Gola football boots and white pillars at the centre of the shop act as functional display points. The store is long and thin in shape and is completely white. However, the Gola branding is so strong and the product so colourful that the store acts as a great canvas for all that is on show.
Ever the perfectionist, Jacobson has a number of things he wants to change in the store, but whether these will be implemented is another issue.
“This store is here to learn from,” he says. “There are elements of this store that I don’t like. But it’s not just about what I think. We’ve got an audience out there and we have to appeal to them.”
Gola Classics 40 Carnaby Street, London W1
835sq ft: The size of Gola Classics’ Carnaby Street store
200: The number of product options on sale
4 weeks: The time taken to fit out the store