Along with reusch , HO seem to be big advocates (supporters) of the "duo grip" system . I was wondering why HO feels this type of glove is so good . Does this come from research from pro's , or is it the preference of the owners / designers ?
HO SOCCER is a specific brand for goalkeeper and it must have the most complete range. The latex duo grip permits the hand not to slip inside the glove and allows a better control of the ball. If it’s help the control of the ball, we will keep it.
When, I was young, it happened me several times to return my gloves and to feel that it could be a great idea to have a double-sided latex .
Personally, I am the designer and as my favorite latex is the duo grip, you have the answer of your question.
About the tast of the pros, it’s very different. Some don't support it, others like it, each have their own preference
Why was the gecko cut dropped?
No, The Gecko didn't disappear. It remained in the collection of some countries. It’s a cut that had a little pain to start. Today it is very popular in the goalkeeper community. It took time to receive information, the collection 2007 went on sale and we didn’t kept it in our international catalog.
We are modifying some details and this cut will come back in the international collection in 2008.
What is HO's policy when it comes to choosing who they wish to endorse? And do goalkeepers ever approach you and hope to be endorsed? And how does it work? Do they get a set number of gloves per month? or is it another way?
We receive demands of sponsorship regularly. We forward them automatically to the distributors of every country. The one takes its decision here according to his needs, the quality of the keeper, his level, or his strategy for the future.
Some keepers look for the best contract and don't look at the quality of the products. On the other hand, some will work with you if the product is perfect.
A goalkeeper uses in general between 15 and 20 pairs per year. The most famous between 40 and 60 pairs. A big number is offered to the fans after match.
As you can imagine it, they are very treasured by the supporters.
What is the history of HO? How did it come about? What were the first pair of HO gloves?
I can write a book, but I will try to explain it shortly.
History started in 1997 when I left my native country (France) to leave in Portugal. I opened a sport shop specialized for goalkeeper.
I met the agents of Reusch, Adidas (the brands most known at this time) and it went well. On the other hand I had a big problem with Uhlsport that refused to sell me their product. The reason was that my project was not pleasing to the local distributor.
It was necessary that I find other solutions in order to have the most possible choice. One of this brand was BGB (boutique du gardien de but) a French brand that began to have success in France and in some European countries.
During the meeting, BGB asked me to become his exclusive distributor for Portugal.
After reflection, I accepted because the products were good and it seemed me that I could make something.
I met Michel Preud'Homme and 2 others people to set up a company of distribution for BGB.
After 2 years we became the numbers 1 in sales. The stores in Portugal wanted the BGB only.
At the end of 1999, BGB became bankrupt.
Considering the commercial network, all the stores that trusted us and of the goal keepers that we sponsored, we decided to continue the adventure with a brand that we have named MPH (Michel Preud'Homme).
At the end of 2000, I was victim of an swindle by one the shareholders and I left the brand.
In August 2001, I created the brand HO SOCCER with the collaborator who worked with me in my store for goalkeeper (José Mendes). I take care of the designing and of the commercial area and left it to him production and administration.
We created the MGC cut with 8 other models. We immediately had success.
Since, the brand grows, we will count 20 distributors end of 2007 and we are selling approx 60 different models in our collections 2007.
The morals of this history it is that without the deep intelligence of the Portuguese distributor of Uhlsport, I would not be here . A big thanks to him !
What are the challenges of being in a market that must compete not only with other specialist brands such as your own, but with giants such as adidas, Nike, and Puma?
I don't think that it is necessary to see the things like that.
For Adidas, Nike or Reebok, the goal keeper represents a very small part of their sales. It is not the case of HO SOCCER, SGP, UHLSPORT or REUSCH.
While taking an example, we are in the same case of a specialist store for running shoes that must fight against the Decathlon or the JJB (big european sport stores) in the same city
The first choice of a runner that practices a good level at his sport will be going to buy at a specialist who will propose the specialist brands as New balance, Brooks, Asics or Saucony.
I consider that I am a specialist store. I concentrate on what I make best and where I’m the most efficient.
I think that it is necessary to make the difference between the mass market and the specialist market.
The customer today is mature enough to realize this subtlety. He knows what he will find when he buys from a specialist brand.
A lot of forum now exists (theglovebag.com, falksiemering.de, soloporteros.com etc…), sites specialized in the GK and allowing them to exchange their point of view. They have a good knowledge now about the products. This was not the case 10 years ago.
Who was the 1st professional goalkeeper to wear your gloves, and what gloves did they wear?
When we started HO SOCCER, we immediately recovered most keepers playing with MPH/BGB. Therefore it was a group of player's and not a particular GK that played with the gloves.
Pedro Espinha (GUIMARAES and National team Portugal of), Hilario (FC PORTO), Sergei OVCHINIKOV (FC PORTO and National Team of RUSSIA) Andrej WOZNIAK (BRAGA and National Team of POLAND), William ANDEM (BOAVISTA and National Team of CAMEROON), JOAO RICARDO (PACOS FERREIRA and National team of ANGOLA) were some of the first.
What famous Goalkeepers contribute to designing your gloves and palms?
We don't have goal keepers who participate in the beginning to the end in the conception of a glove. We rather have specific demands .
For example, It is necessary to know that one of the main problem of the professionals is the changes of balls. Every two years, there is a new ball that leaves with "new concepts" that embarrass immensely the keepers.
All keepers that I know complain of the trajectories or the texture of these new balls.
In this case, for example, we use the help of a laboratory, with techniques that can measure the qualities of such latex and the texture of the new soccerballs. And once we have knowledge of information, we integrate it in our collections. “Our” keepers are very satisfied
"Our" goal keepers in general, trust us in a first time, and let us know on details that appear to them important and at the time of testing of the prototypes to the final product.
Why does HO choose to make such a small amount of Negative cuts availiable with the majority of your designs roll or flat cuts?
Our collections are made according to the market where we are.
Some countries only want the Roll finger, others want the flat cuts, and others want the negatives.
Our distributors give us the directions to follow and we help them towards the maximum to deliver what their public wants.
For the negative cuts, we have the negative proteck, the Enigma and the MGC.
We also have created 5 years ago the cut R *égative that gives some sensations similar to the negative cut with a few more of space for the fingers.
What makes HO different or unique to other companies?
Is there any plan on "globalizing" the HO company to make it more well known, and have gloves distributed around the world for more customers? the different and innovative cuts that you have produced should be used around the world so goalkeepers around the world have the opportunity to try something different.
Except the quality and innovations, I think that one of the important points is flexibility and the adaptability of our collections in the countries where we sell them.
The market in southern Europe is not at all the same as the market in northern Europe, same for the North-American market, the south-American or Asian.
The ground are not the same, the weather report either, the balls either, the spending powers either, the needs of the keeper either, mentality either, the game of the keeper either.
There are about 18,000,000 keepers in the world, which makes for approximately 25,000,000 of pairs sold per year. If you want to touch the most keepers in the world, it is necessary to adapt to the needs of every culture. If you add the production of the goalkeeper brands most famous (include Adidas and Nike) you will pass the 5,000,000 of pairs with difficulty. Who sells the remaining??
One of our strengths is this … It is required to work with distributors that perfectly know their market and that inform you. It also requires flexibility and fast suppliers.
I repeat the same, if you speak with a South American keeper, his needs will be different than a European Keeper or an Asian Keeper.
What country do you focus most of your sales on and why?
The countries that everybody searches for. It’s means markets with the best margins and volumes. If we can find the two it is fantastic !
While HO's product has been applauded as being effective and innovative, its sevrice to disributors has been at the opposite end of the spectrum, making it hard for many of us to get gloves through our usual sources. Is HO aware of the problem and how are you addressing it?
It is a good question.
To answer this question, it is necessary to know the different steps of the merchandising.
1 - Sourcing
2 - conception of the collection
3 - the purchase of the raw materials
4 - manufacture
5 - the distributor of the country
5 - the sport shops
6 - the final customer who is the keeper
First of all it is necessary to know that HO SOCCER is only 6 years old of existence, that to put the good relationships in place takes a certain time. There were mistakes of castings with some of our partners. We rectified them.
But one thing is clear, we can have the best product of the world but if we don't have a distributor in your country, it will be difficult for you to acquire it . Fortunatelly the web is here and you will find in shops specialized like Pro Direct soccer, Great Save, Between The Sticks, Just keepers, Keepersport, goalkeepersclub , Soloporteros etc…
Since 2 years, we rebuild a network with more professional distributors that shares our philosophy. We also work to get production faster and more reliable.
We took the decision to adapt the collections to different country. Its advantages but also inconveniences.
Where does 'Ho' see the future of glove design going and what does it intend to bring to the party that will see it eclipse other brands, because I personally feel we're getting into a cul-de-sac in terms of innovations in palm materials,glove cuts and finger protection ?
I don't know what the other brands think but for my part it is a big mistake to think that the market is in a cul de sac
I have a lot of ideas in my box but I cannot make/sell them all at the same time. I need a perfect network to sell them, I want to have the biggest impact possible. Some of the ideas are too innovative for todays market, we have to wait.
Today, you show a drawing on internet and you can be sure that in a month, yours idea will be copied and will be marketed before your product arrives in the hands of your customers. I exaggerate but I am not far from the reality.
Don’t worry about the ideas. I also think that you will be surprised in the next years
What glove (by any brand) on the market do you wish HO could have designed? Which glove other than HO do you think is a good solid benchmark?
I liked the CUT of the Vapor Grip of Nike. It’s exactly the kind of glove that I would have been able to create. It possesses a lot of point of contact with the ball and it is the essential.
It is difficult to say what is currently the best because we are speaking about cycles, one day it is one, another day it’s another. It’s depend of their network and if they signed big names. All, as HO SOCCER, every brand has his qualities and his faults.
ADIDAS: It is a strong brand with a very good commercial network
NIKE: The models won in quality these last years. There are things different of research and the innovation.
PUMA: Gianluigi Buffon is a fantastic window.
SGP: Adam Sells is an enthusiast men as me, he makes an excellent work. I like these last two collections well. We had a lot of similarities in our professional life.
REUSCH: I liked this brand a lot until the end of the years 90. There are the innovation and the interesting technical details in their models 2007.
UHLSPORT: Fantastic marketing.
What was your biggest motivation getting the HO brand into the UK, and how do you think your range of jerseys,shorts, holds up against the big guns (other brands)?
We work with a very good distributor in UK. The team of Tuff distribution is composed by very hard and motivated workers. I am very happy to work with Tuff Distribution.
In two years they succeeded in putting HO SOCCER in nearly all the good English sport shops.
Be again a little patient and HO SOCCER will have a good network of shops in a very short time in UK . I don’t have any doubt about it.
What piece of eqiupment do you think will become the next "essential" for goalkeepers, and what do you plan on doing to get a jump on research and production on that product?
I cannot answer this question because we are working on them currently but be sure that there are several areas of development
How many prototype gloves do you go through before the final product? Will HO start to develop other soccer related equipment i.e. shoes?
When I visit our suppliers in Asia, I like to sit near the stitcher and work with him to find new cuts.
I’m in the factory and I can rectify in the instant. For the first step of the prototype, in general 1 or 2 prototypes are sufficient. Then, we send it to the professionals for test.
In general, it is good for 70% of the gloves. The only modifications are in the combinations of colour.
From the beginning to the last version, I would say 2 to 4 maximum.
For the shoes we don't have the intention to start a collection. It is a specific business and it is not our business. It would be necessary for it to have a partner with the experience and that would bring something new.
For the moment nothing is planned.
HO continually strives for a massive range of gloves. Do you think this gives HO an edge compared to other companies, because almost everyones tastes are catered for no matter what? Additionally, does this also prove to be a problem at times, because retailers will often only carry a small percentage of the range that HO has available for sale?
Make a test with balls of different brands and different textures . PU, PU/PVC and PVC. Make the test with your best pair of gloves and use the same gloves for each quality of ball.
The result it’s that you will feel a lot of difference in the grip between each ball. If the ball is wet the difference of grip will be bigger. If you test it in different grounds you will feel the different in your grip, if you test it with a dry weather or if you test it with a humid weather you will a difference in you grip and we are speaking about your best pair of gloves independently of the brand.
It’s why we are using 12 kind of latex with different thickness/cushioning. Each keeper will find in HO SOCCER the latex foam for every kind of ball available in the market.
Some of companies sell gloves because they signed big names but you need to know that most of the professionals today play the whole season with the same soccerball.
Their professional league signed an agreement with a brand and each game is played with a new ball never used.
For the keeper pro, there is not a problem, he makes his choices beginning of his season and basically it will work during his season.
Now, the amateurs level is another history. Every week, the ground is different, the ball is different and most of the times the soccer ball is used. Do you think that the best choice is to play with Buffon, Helton or Casillas gloves in every games ???
I think sometimes they need a latex foam with more density or less density to contain the aquaplaning effect, more thickness or less thickness to feel the ball, negative cut or roll finger for a better control, more cushioning or less cushioning to absorb the impact, with finger protection without finger protection, etc…
That’s what HO SOCCER have and want. A lot of choice for every kind of soccerball, levels, technicity, or weather.
We don’t ask the shop to carry all HO SOCCER models but if their customers need, we have.