Stiga is supporting the next generation of gamers

Stiga is 75 years old

Stiga turns 75

Last year, one of the world’s most renowned manufacturers of table tennis equipment and accessories celebrated its 75th birthday. For so long, Swedish manufacturer Stiga has offered professional and recreational players products that have become synonymous with quality and reliability. We’re offering table tennis fans a chance to get up close and personal with the brand and find out what made its creator so successful.

How did it all begin?

The company was founded in 1944 in southern Swedish town Tranano by businessman Stig Helmquist. An experienced businessman, he understood how important it was to involve experienced tennis players, because only a true professional can objectively assess the quality of goods being produced. In the early 1950s, Helmqvist hired Sweden’s leading table tennis player, whose team included several national champions Flissberg. Despite the fact that the tennis player worked on taking orders, he was given the responsible task of creating a completely new tennis racket for world-class athletes. The presented model had unique playing characteristics, which allowed Stiga to make the first “breakthrough” in the world of table tennis.

Helmquist did not stop at a professional athlete. In 1963, the future “legend” of Sweden Kjell Johansson became a promotional book of the brand. The athlete repeatedly took prizes at the most prestigious tournaments in singles, doubles and team trials. Then came Stiga’s other champions Hans Alser and Stellan Bengson, who became the first Shidos to win the world championship in the individual category (1971).

A new generation of Tenni rockets

In the 1950s, Helmquist began developing table tennis racquets based on the styles most commonly used by professional athletes. Tennis stars of that era – in particular Alser, Bengson and Johansson – were directly involved in the creation of the products. Each player offered a different version. That’s why the tennis players’ names have become a trademark of Stiga racquets. And the unique reasons and exceptional playing characteristics of the products are still an example for other manufacturers.

For 20 years, the company produced only “whole” racquets. However, production of individual bases began only in the late 60s. The first of them under the Stiga brand was called Allround Classic. Swedish table tennis stars were involved in the creation of the model, who were able to distinguish several basic types of “grip” of the racket. Later, other bases were created, which became world bestsellers. But the Allround Classic (which is still in production today) remains the most popular model.

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In Europe, Stiga found out about bases in the early 70s. The most enterprising bought products from wholesalers and later sold them to table tennis fans under the guise of handmade products.

Tennis boom in Sweden

Interest in table tennis was growing. Already in the mid-1950s table tennis courts were installed in almost all Swedish schools, organizations and recreational facilities. The main reason for the sport’s growing popularity was the 1975 World Championships held in Stockholm. That and four other prestigious tournaments at the time were played on tables that are still the best in their price category – the Stiga Expert VM.

At the same time the young entrepreneur Bengt Andsson from a small Swedish village became interested in the table tennis industry. At the age of 18 he already had a lot of management experience. Together with his older brother, the boy Bengt ran a candy store. However, such a job was not the limit of Anderson’s dreams. At a young age he was fond of table tennis and often played with his brothers Kjell and Kristen Johansson. During breaks, the boys made grand plans for the future. However, while Kjell planned to become a world champion and Christers an outstanding coach, Andersson dreamed of heading the world’s largest table tennis company. At the time, the three had no idea how close their dreams were to reality.

With Stiga firmly established both in Europe and abroad, Bengt knew he had to act. He decided to establish his company, called Banda, in Eskilstuna, not far from the entrepreneur’s home village. Andersson believed there was room in the international tennis market for another supplier. He continued to keep in touch with his comrades. And then, after another training session, Kjell Johansson told the entrepreneur that he had found “the best table tennis balls in the world. The talk was about the products of the Japanese brand Nittaku. After this conversation the enterprising Andersson had an idea – to import high-quality accessories from Japan.

At first he called all the sports stores and asked if they had Nittaku brand products in their assortment. When he found out that no one had heard of the brand, Bengt suggested that the operators approach Johansson and convince them of the impeccable quality of the Japanese accessories. The owners of Lady Anderson’s exploded within days. After all, no table tennis fan would refuse to buy the balls the champion speaks so flatteringly of.

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dreams come true

Andersson and Stiga first crossed paths in 1984 when Bengt took over as head of one of the divisions of its biggest competitor. At the same time, he continued to lead the company, now renamed Sweden Table Tennis.

The move from Stigi to Eskilstuna marked the beginning of an era of flourishing Swedish table tennis. In 1989, the young national team defeated athletes from China for the first time. Then the Swedish team won three international championships in a row wearing Stiga uniforms.

Generations change – lofty goals remain

Given Andersson’s love of table tennis, it’s not surprising that his son Mats was also involved in the sport from an early age. Already in 1978 the young sportsman at the age of ten took the first prize in a tournament in Oxelossund and was recognized the best player in his age group.

A few years later, MATS represented Sweden at the European Youth Championships, where they took silver in the doubles category with Thomas von Scheelele, bronze in the individual competition and gold in team play. And two years later the same team was the best at the youth tournament. Later, however, the young athlete decided to leave sports for a career and continue his studies at the University of Economics. After graduating, Mats again followed in his father’s footsteps, returning to Eskilstuna to work in Stiga’s export department. He was later promoted to Product Development Manager. In 1999, after 40 years in the tennis equipment business, Andersson stepped down as general manager of Stiga, leaving the reins to his son. Like his father, Mats placed great value on quality, not only conforming to agreed specifications, but also setting his own standards. Unique playing characteristics are the main reason Stiga’s products are so popular the world over.

Interesting facts

At the time of Banda Bengt’s leadership, it was impossible to beat such a serious rival as Stiga. But in the 1970s Andersson found a real diamond in the rough – a young tennis player named Jan-Uva Waldner. At the time, the future champion, the only European to take gold at the Olympics, was only 7 years old. However, being an experienced table tennis enthusiast, Bengt saw great potential in Waldner and even offered his parents to sponsor the little player. One day Jan-Uvve showed his mentor a pair of socks and said he would wear them only when he reached the World Cup final. And so it happened! In 1987, at an international table tennis tournament in New Delhi, the 22-year-old Waldner played the final against reigning champion Jiang Jiang. The Swedish athlete was wearing only his socks.

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The early 1990s marked a very important event for the company. Bengt and his son managed to sign a contract with the legendary Chinese tennis player Liu Gulyan, who won the three most prestigious awards – Olympic gold, world championship and the first place of the international championship. According to Andersson himself, he doesn’t understand why the deal happened, because the partners literally didn’t get along. Guoliang did not know a word of English, and Beng, of course, could not speak Chinese. The agreement was the beginning of a close collaboration between Stiga and China that continues to this day. For example, the company still officially supplies the ground for the Tenni rackets of the Chinese table tennis team.

In the spring of 2000, Sweden won a sensational victory at the international championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This gold medal was the first for the team for the last seven years. And four months later, two Swedish tennis players reached the semifinals of the Sydney Olympics. In view of such outstanding results in table tennis, Hysteria has taken over Sweden to the point where Stiga rackets and balls are not only available in all Swedish sports stores but also in the company’s warehouse. Even those who had never played the sport wanted to try themselves as tennis players. The result of this heightened interest was the signing in 2003 of a 10-year agreement between Stiga and the Swedish Table Tennis Association. The contract was later extended for another seven years.

The story doesn’t end there

Competent corporate management, a boundless love of sport, and the ability to negotiate with each athlete without words are the three keys to Stiga’s success and future development. The company will not stop there and will continue to develop and produce first-class accessories to meet the growing demands of consumers. In the hypermarket Tennis №1 you can buy original products from the leading brand at an attractive price. We always have in stock tennis rackets, balls and other equipment for professionals, amateurs and beginners.

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