Belfast Telegraph

Shop Front: Gotto Sports

By Ron McBride

In an age of hypermarkets, those in the university area are fortunate to have an established, independent sports shop in the neighbourhood juxtaposed with art galleries and cafes.

David Gotto, whose name is synonymous with squash, opened his shop in 1975. Today, the well-presented shopfront with its large window has an attractive display of sporting goods, accessories and trophies.

Some shoppers arrive with a definite need, whereas for the browsers there is a nagging thought, on looking in the window, that ‘something healthy’ should be done, be it only playing darts in the garage. Browsers in sports shops can benefit from a feel-good factor of at least appearing ‘healthy’.

The window display draws shoppers into a well-ordered, medium-sized shop. Immediately upon entering, the iconic racket sports are to the fore with squash and tennis equipment in abundance. The present owner, Stephen Higgins, has a squash pedigree and gives friendly, professional advice on all equipment. Among the hundreds of racquets, balls and bags lurk the stress balls, dart sets and accessories such as wrist bands and tape.

Venturing further into the shop the display of running shoes is comprehensive and Gotto have a trump card in their GAIT analysis system used by individuals and sports teams. To the uninitiated, this hi-tech piece of kit looks like a run-of-the mill treadmill. Runners are filmed, checked for pronation and given advice on the most suitable types of running shoes fitted to minimise injury. Serendipity indeed for those simply ‘enquiring about trainers’.

Stephen points out that the trend has been towards more expensive brands in recent years, be it footwear, cricket bats, rackets or hockey sticks.

Gotto, of course, restrings rackets. Tournaments such as the recent All-Ireland Squash Championships bring in a welcome surge in demand.

The next major display is one of hockey sticks and accessories. Look closer and accessories for cricket, rugby, swimming, table tennis and sports clothing can be found. A steady trickle of customers and delivery men provide a buzz of activity.

The customer profile has remained fairly constant, with nearby schools and Queen’s University providing a seasonal boost. Website customers include many from outside the province. Gotto plays a role in the community through sponsorship in a number of sports, and a student discount is always available.

A friendly, independent shop, it is the ideal place to go should you want a base layer, darts’ flights, top-quality running shoes or just a stress ball in BT9.

Gotto Sports

Stranmillis Road,

Belfast

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