Gola Banks On America’s Love of Heritage Sneakers

Two years after parting ways with its U.S. distributor, U.K.-based label Gola has its sights set on becoming the go-to brand for retro sneaker enthusiasts in the States.

Tony Evans, president of parent company Jacobson Group, said Gola was underperforming in the U.S. compared to its robust Western European business, so the firm split from Megablue LLC at the end of 2013 and set up its own subsidiary to oversee operations stateside.

“The only way to build the business was to invest in it. You’re never going to [grow] at the level we were looking for through a distribution partner,” Evans explained.

Gola denim high-tops.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.
Gola Harrier sneakers in suede and leather.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Buoyed by improvements in its U.S. business, Gola’s global sales grew 15 percent in 2015. And for 2016, thanks to stellar sell-throughs for the spring ’16 line and promising leads on fall, the brand is predicting a 62 percent jump in sales, according to Evans.

He believes the current popularity of heritage product can help boost the profile of Gola, a label that’s more than a century old.

“You have huge brands like Nike, but Nike started in 1971 — they only have 45 years of heritage,” Evans said. “Gola is 111 years old. In its early days, there wasn’t product developed that’s relevant now, [but] through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, there’s a huge amount that is.”

For fall ’16, Gola has three low-cut men’s styles it expects to hit big: the Wasp, Bullet and Harrier. For women, it will tout the low-profile Coaster silhouette.

Gola metallic Coaster high-tops for women.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.
Gola’s classic Equipe suede trainers.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Evans noted that the label’s vintage look is ideal for boutique retailers such as its current partners Sportie LA, NOS Boutique and Shoegasm. Looking ahead, Gola will continue to target the independent retail channel, but the brand hasn’t ruled out major chains such as Journeys, which Evans identified as a desirable partner.

And Gola also recognizes that its brand awareness needs work. To build its name, the label is continuing its #WhichGolaAreYou social media campaign, which launched last year and has so far engaged with more than 200 fashion and sneaker influencers.

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