We’re Manchester people,” says Harvey Jacobson, managing director of the Jacobson Group, whose portfolio includes sports fashion brand Gola. “I support United - they wore Gola in the 1970s.”
Gola couldn’t have asked for a better adoptive family when Jacobson bought the iconic brand in 1996, which would eventually become an anchor of the Jacobson Group’s business.
Jacobson says the turning point for Gola - an anagram of “goal” - came in 1999 when it took a stand at now-defunct trade show 40° and showed one of its original 1960s styles.
“I can’t remember if we were lucky or clever but we definitely saw the benefit of heritage,” he says. “I was on my way to Highbury to see United play against Arsenal. I thought about going to the show to help out but decided not to. We won 2-1.” The business scored too, opening 50 accounts at the exhibition.
After that initial success, the Gola Classics brand was born to sit alongside the mainstream Gola Sport collection, helping to grow Gola’s international business. In fact, its Manchester heritage was a plus point when it came to markets such as Brazil and Argentina, where product is adapted to include the city’s name on T-shirts, for example.
“The positioning and perception of Gola [globally] is higher than in the UK, which is still our biggest market,” Jacobson says. “But we’re planning to lift the Classics range in the UK. We have to from a brand equity point of view.”
Gola has already made some headway here with its Classics brand, after collaborations with London Fashion Week designer Jonathan Saunders in spring 08 and Christian Lacroix in spring 09.But Jacobson is keen to retain some of his more down-to-earth customers, including Manchester-born rock-star brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher.
“Noel called up once and said: ‘Can you get some trainers for me and our kid?’” Jacobson laughs. “The fashion scene in Manchester comes out of music, and good bands come out of Manchester all the time.” Red or blue? Red.
Harvey Jacobson is managing director of footwear supplier Jacobson Group