Rarely would you find a shop inspired by a culture of shoplifting so it’s no surprise to see that the only example of such a place is in Liverpool.
Tired and predictable stereotypes aside, Transalpino is a genuine source of impressive footwear for match going types countrywide despite only being a year old. The business itself was established just 14 months ago in September 2006, with the website following a few weeks later.
With Liverpool being widely acknowledged as the birthplace of trainer culture it seems apt that a shop in the city is now continuing the tradition started circa 30 years ago, especially under the name ‘Transalpino’.
“The shop is called Transalpino after the student travel agency which was based in Liverpool in the early 80s” explains one of the owners, Jockey. “Many lads who followed Liverpool and Everton around that time used this mode of transport to get themselves abroad. Basically you could buy a ticket from Liverpool to Oostende for £13 but with the skillful use of break fluid and an ink rubber a ticket could be amended to whatever destination in Europe you fancy.”
“So lads would be ‘getting off ‘ on a regular basis to do a bit of ‘shopping’ around Europe, the owners must have been scratching their heads in early May 1981 with the sudden upsurge in business they had. Of course Liverpool had just reached the European Cup Final in Paris and Transalpino were unwittingly unleashing a crimewave on Europe that has made an impact on fashion to this day. Sportswear up till then was used for just that until the Scousers started imitating what Borg, McEnroe and co where wearing on centre court. As we stock mainly Adidas re-issues and we spent a lot of time ‘getting off ‘ we decided to settle on the name after it was suggested to us.”
It didn’t end with just trainers though. Throughout the early 1980s, lads from across the country and the North West in particular regularly supplemented their dole money with trips across the English Channel where they’d take advantage of the lax security and bag themselves a few tidy ‘bargains’ which would find their way back to the UK and feed the desire of self expression which existed within the communities where jobs and money were at a premium.
“Between the late 70s and 1985 when English teams were banned out of Europe, many new labels found there way back across the channel that where hard to find on these shores. Adidas Trimm Trabs, Forest Hills, Sergio Tachinni, Fila amongst others came back with these young scousers rammed into head bags.” explains Jockey.
So having spent his youth unwittingly playing a small but significant part in the birth of what we now know as ‘casual culture’ Jockey eventually decided to use the knowledge he’d gained all those years ago and since, in setting up Transalpino.
“After owning market stalls for about ten years we decided we would rather be sitting in a warm shop rather than be exposed to the elements. Our market business had evolved into a wholesale and import business and we fancied having a shop to use as a base.”
“We looked at the options of setting up a shop selling designer wear. Armani, Hugo Boss etc but decided there was too many doing that, so with both of us liking adidas trainees and we being match going reds we decided on a trainee shop”
So far so good then. The first year has been a success for the shop with over 500 sales from the shop despite there being ongoing building work in the area surrounding it. The website has also done a roaring trade with another 500+ sales going through the site.
“The website has been received well in the first year with us sending orders out to places far a field as Russia, USA, Japan, Dubai, Mexico, Scandinavia and Croatia.
What makes their success even more impressive is that they don’t have a direct account with adidas meaning their trainers are sourced from locations far and wide.
“We are currently carrying stock we have sourced from Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Greece and the USA, but getting the gear is really hard. We are totally independent and don’t deal with adidas who like to dictate everything to you when you have an account with them.”
They’ve relied mostly on ‘word of mouth’ to get their message across, not only on a personal level but using the internet. “We’ve done very little traditional advertising and have instead used the power of the internet to drum up custom, by using football forums of various teams in the UK to sell our wares. Obviously a lot of our customers are from a terrace/ ex hooligan background but the customers from Mexico/USA/Russia etc. I don’t know where the fuck they’ve came from!”
While business appears to be booming and news of Transalpino has been spreading worldwide, the first year of trading has not been without it’s difficulties. Aside from the localised building work having an affect on sales in the shop, they’ve also had problems with the recent postal strike, made worse by the fact Liverpool posties spending an additional ten days on strike. With web sales being so important, this was obviously a major problem for them. “We always try to get the goods out within three days but the recent mail strike caused us untold headaches.” Explains Jockey.
With that particular nightmare out of the way though, the shop has ambitions plans to build on the first year’s success using the same method used all those years ago on the Transalpino scam- by ‘getting off’.
“I am planning to go to South America in the new year to try and source some gear and will hopefully carry on to the states to make some contacts. There seems to be a shift away from labels on the high street (just look at primark) but hopefully and surely adidas will hold its own as it has since the late 70s when those young urchins first stepped aboard the Transalpino express with nothing more than a change of socks, a toothbrush and a head bag.”
Thanks to Jockey from Transalpino for taking the time to answer our questions. Have a look at www.transalpino.co.uk