Most American singles hopes have dissipated in Roland Garros, but an American brand is trying to gain traction in the crowded racquet landscape by issuing a guarantee for the duration of the tournament.
Donnay is taking an unprecedented step of offering a 30-day, money-back guarantee on its new Dual Core racquets—the X-P Dual and X-Dual Lines—during the French Open. Racquets covered by the guarantee include the X-Dual Silver 99, X-Dual Silver 99 Lite, X-Dual Gold (in 94 and 99 square inch head sizes), X-Dual Platinum (in 94 and 99 square inch head sizes), X-P Dual and X-P Lite (which comes in two colors—black with white trim and white with pink trim). Each racquet retails for $198.
Donnay says selling its racquets online through its web site, Donnayusa.com, gives the brand the ability to offer the limited-time, money-back guarantee.
"We're the only racquet company selling directly to the consumer, so we have the ability to do things other racquet companies can't do and this is one of them," says Donnay CEO Bobby Choe, whose brother Jerry Choe heads design and manufacturing of the brand's racquets. "We strongly believe in our racquets and this is a way to put our money where our mouth is and show consumers we stand behind the quality of our racquets."
The guarantee, which is in effect from now until the French Open ends on June 5, applies only to racquets purchased on Donnayusa.com and not to phone orders or racquets purchased in retail shops. Returned racquets must not be "abused or destroyed" and must include all original parts in order to qualify for the refund. The consumer is responsible for shipping the racquet back to Donnay's New York City headquarters as well as paying all shipping costs. Any returned racquet must be postmarked or shipped within 30 days from the day the racquet was received by the customer in order to qualify for the refund. Donnay will issue a refund of the full purchase price (it will not refund shipping, handling or stringing costs) within 14 days of receiving the returned racquet.
It is believed to be the first time an American-based brand is offering a money-back racquet guarantee.
"I'm not aware of any other racquet company offering that kind of guarantee," says Woody Schneider, who owns Grand Central Racquet and New York City Racquet Sports in Manhattan. "It is unique, though I think it opens up a can of worms if brands start selling directly online; obviously it impacts racquet sales for retail stores already competing with the big online warehouses."
Emile Donnay founded the brand in 1910 in Belgium. The company made wood tool handles before beginning to manufacture wood racquets in 1934. Rod Laver briefly played with Donnay. The brand enjoyed its halcyon days when Bjorn Borg won Wimbledon playing with Donnay (Borg played with Donnay in European tournaments). Andre Agassi wielded a Donnay when he defeated Goran Ivanisevic in a five-set thriller to capture his first career Grand Slam championship at the 1992 Wimbledon. In 1996, Sports Direct International acquired global rights to Donnay but devalued the brand's reputation by producing a $99 entry-level frame that distanced Donnay from its loyal following. The Choe brothers bought the U.S. licensing rights and relaunched Donnay USA last summer, debuting its ultra-thin beam player frames.
Will the reward of potential sales justify the risk of the guarantee—which could cost the company if consumers take advantage of the return policy? Choe says five months of play-testing with a wide range of consumers gives Donnay confidence their sticks will have staying power.
"That's obviously the biggest risk: that we could have a lot of returns," Choe says. "But from what we've seen across the board from different segments of the market, play-testing with hundreds of different players of different genders, different ages and different skill levels we've received a very uniform, positive response to our new racquets. We started play-testing Dual Core in December so we've done a lot of research and the response has been so favorable we decided to take this step."