The desire to innovate in tennis accessories led two relatively new companies to focus on tennis bags and two long-standing brands to move towards new bag designs. With technological improvements across the industry, whether in racquets or sneakers, the new emphasis on bag features, materials and styles highlights a growing consumer base.
London-based Epirus used a collection of lifestyle-focused tennis bags in 2019 to help launch a new push into space. Brands such as Wilson and Dunlop created approaches that strayed from designs of yesteryear, giving customers new options for the street and in styles not too marked by brightness and logos. And Geau Sport was launched in December 2020 with a first technical approach to the bag.
“While some tennis equipment had made tremendous progress during my tennis hiatus (20 years), I noticed that the designs of the tennis bags had remained relatively unchanged,” says Chris Pageau, founder of Geau Sport . “I saw an opportunity to change that and make the bag a coveted piece of equipment.”
Former top junior player who professionally designed hundreds of products in an outdoor industry driven by a flow of new bag and packaging designs, says not only does the typical tennis bag look unappealing in style which prominently displays a large logo, but This may lack quality materials. “I selected materials that you would normally see on a high-end hiking backpack or travel bag,” he says. “These materials must achieve the rare combination of being both lightweight and durable.” Using 420D ripstop polyester and 500D Cordura, the Geau Sport bag brings a technical touch to space, but in a tennis-specific design and modern silhouette.
Alan Kelly, co-founder of Epirus, created for customers who want a functional tennis bag without it looking like it. “We’re doing something completely different from other brands,” he says. “We don’t focus on the mass market, instead we make lifestyle bags for professionals who play tennis. It’s a big change in mindset in the way traditional tennis brands think about their products. ”
The Epirus brand aims to “create timeless bags that won’t go out of style,” having kept the same collections as they started out, simply adding customer-focused improvements as they go. “Some Epirus customers use their bags exclusively for tennis, but most use them for a combination of tennis, work, gym, fitness classes and travel,” says Kelly. “We even have customers who don’t play tennis at all, they just love the aesthetics.”
But it’s not just the small brands that make the difference. Thank Wilson for tackling a new aesthetic for big brands and Dunlop for pioneering new styles. Dunlop’s long backpack style – a backpack where the entire racquet, not just the head, fits perfectly inside the bag – was originally launched in 2019 and is now became several styles. And more are on the way.
“The bag was originally designed to make getting around town more convenient with all your gear,” says Kimberly Pettit, spokesperson for Dunlop. “The bag itself is not bulky and provides full racket coverage to keep all of your gear safe on a train or in all weather conditions.”
Having something in the market that no one is offering not only helps differentiate Dunlop from the competition, but lets consumers know the brand is putting them front and center during design, Pettit says. “Before launching new bags, we make sure that each region has a say in what their market sees when it comes to colors, styles and trends to ensure that the upcoming range matches the needs of our growing consumer base. ”
Pettit says consumers have been open to trying new things, especially if they perceive innovation and functionality to suit their lifestyle. “The long backpack is a great example in terms of functionality, especially for travel, and the innovation has been successful,” she says.
Having options has led Wilson to new places in tennis bags, with a women-specific line, lifestyle-focused designs, and even a unique roll-top option that transforms from a backpack. traditional size in a bag that can cover an entire racket. “We aspire to be the go-to tennis lifestyle brand,” says Michael Schaeffer, Wilson Racquet Sports Product Line Manager. “This means it’s critical that players can find Wilson products that represent a lifestyle aesthetic. ”
Drawing on focus groups with players from across the country, Wilson also enlists the brand’s top clothing designers to help select colors and fabrics when creating bags. With the aim, says Schaeffer, of wanting to have versatility with their line of bags and to maximize the use of space, designers like to get into their players’ mindset to create something for every type of bag. consumer. To find this next innovation, Schaeffer says Wilson is taking inspiration from industries other than tennis, such as the outdoors and camping and even motorcycles to see how they can adapt new technology and functionality to tennis bags.
“Consumers today demand more from their products,” he says. “Demand more options to better meet their unique needs. This has led to an expansion of more unique offerings and silhouettes. We now have a range of bags that can suit any player depending on their product needs, style preferences, and preferred method of travel on the court. ”
Expect the push in the tennis bags to stay. Wilson continues to roll out new styles and focus on sustainability with pattern design, material selection and waste reduction, while Dunlop will continue to add new pricing across all lines while introducing new colors and new patterns. Epirus continues to produce its popular Everyday collection and after Geau Sport’s first batch of Axiom backpacks and bags sold four times faster than expected, the replenished inventory is expected to sell out again, leading Pageau to plan to launch a more advanced version in spring 2022. line with a new color option and a design for women.
“We’ve seen a number of new brands launching over the past few years, each doing something a little different and attracting a different audience,” Kelly said. “It’s great to see more innovation in the tennis apparel and accessories space. We believe that a rising tide lifts all ships.