REPLICA football shirt firm Toffs has announced plans to expand its reach to the Gulf by opening several stores in Dubai.
The Gateshead company is in discussions with a Middle Eastern family business to open its own branded stores at sites in Dubai.
Michele Finch, who runs Toffs with her husband Alan, will head to Dubai in November to meet the Arab investment group whose portfolio includes engineering, healthcare and retail.
During the visit Mrs Finch will be shown potential sites for Toffs stores. Mrs Finch said the Dubai market could be lucrative for the firm because of its large expat population and the demand in the United Arab Emirates for vintage goods.
She also said the company’s new product – nostalgic football books which retail at about £2,000 – should prove popular in the Arab market. The first of the books has been produced for Arsenal, containing autographs and specially commissioned articles and weighs in at 37 kilos.
While Toffs sells shirts in countries across the world through tie ins with various football clubs and over the internet, its only current overseas stores are in Italy with three Toffs Nostalgica stores in Milan, Rome and Bologna.
The company, which has about 40 staff, is hoping to expand its presence in Italy and has recently developed a firm footing in the French market. It now has deals with four French football clubs, including a three-year, £300,000 contract with Paris Saint Germain, the Manchester United of France.
Mr Finch, a former record plugger for Elton John, set up Toffs in 1991 from his dining table on Tyneside and was soon joined by his wife, who left behind her career in the hotel industry. Alan’s collection of football memorabilia, old programmes and Roy of the Rovers annuals inspired his idea that the shirts worn by heroes of a bygone age should be recreated for the modern market.
He found a local dressmaker and recreated a 1950 Arsenal shirt, painstakingly researched, complete with hand-drawn badge. Arsenal’s commercial manager placed an order as soon as he saw it and most of the rest of the UK’s clubs followed suit soon after, with licence deals being clinched with The Football Association and the German FA, the DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund).
Shirts are also in constant demand for film and television productions, including Fever Pitch. Celebrity fans include Spike Lee and Radio One DJ Chris Moyles.