Roger McHugh, managing director of Beechfield Brands, talks to Images about fashionable backpacks and just how easy it is to decorate bags

Images: What are the key trends in brandable bags at the moment?
Roger McHugh: Since 2014 the backpack has undergone a huge resurgence, and it is now established as a must-have wardrobe staple with it even being seen on the Fashion Week catwalks for 2016. This typically sporty item now has a more sophisticated appeal with new fabrics and trims all adding to the luxury refined feel: you will see this influence in our new BagBase Onyx and Oakdale ranges.

Another growth area is All-Day activewear or ‘Athleisure’, as consumers move away from the traditional gym treadmill and towards outdoor sporting activities instead. The modern activewear bag needs to be transitional, fashionable and functional with multi-purpose appeal, which is why for 2016 we have further developed the QX range from Quadra and the Athleisure range from BagBase.

How is the rising popularity and use of electronic personal devices affecting the brandable bags market and your product development?
Laptops and phones have become fully integrated into our daily work and home lives and we factor this into the design discussions of each bag we develop. This can be a difficult task as the technology world is fast-paced and the wrong sized phone or tablet pouch can quickly date a product. We have focused on offering a wide range of both protective and aesthetically innovative cases, sleeves and bags that are suited to varying different needs and have great decoration potential. For 2015 we launched the Eclipse collection in Quadra: offering the flexibility to suit both tablet and laptop needs.

From left: New from BagBase – the BG863 Onyx Across-Body Bag, new for 2016, the BG645 Oakdale Canvas Backpack, the fashionable and functional QX550 30 Litre Stowaway Carry-On from Quadra

Are brandable bag buyers becoming more adventurous with regard to colour?
Taste definitely varies between market sectors and demographics, between countries, and also our brands. In Westford Mill the natural colours sell better due to the environmentally-friendly credentials of the brand, whereas in BagBase bolder colours suit. We’ve begun introducing more complex colour palettes to some styles in BagBase, taking inspiration from the high street brands – for example, sapphire, emerald and coral in the BG120. Quadra’s brand palette comprises predominantly black and tonal shades, although we keep this corporate offering fresh and modern by working with more complex, technical fabrics and cuts.

Some decorators still perceive bags to be difficult to decorate products: what would you say to them and what are you doing to make your products simple and profitable to decorate?
The first question we ask when we come across a potential new product development idea is how can we make this easy to decorate. Most of the perceived decorating difficulty is driven by fear of the unknown. In fact many of our styles use the same fabrics and the process is transferable between each. They are all designed for quick, easy and profitable decoration.

We add features such as the zip-off Easy Panel, which can be completely removed, decorated, and zipped back on in no time at all. The Easy Pocket is even simpler to use: lift it out of the way, add your embroidery to the outside of your bag, then drop the pocket back into place, covering the stitches and backing inside.

For 2015 we introduced our new sublimation collection, which includes our press-optimised decoration panel and HD Sublimation image surface.

What’s the best piece of sales and marketing advice you can give to Images readers to help them sell more bags to their clients?
Bags are used repeatedly, on a daily basis, whether it’s for work, school or the weekly food shop. With only a small embroidery, patch or print a bag can be changed from a blank promotional item to a premium branded style worthy of a premium price tag. The potential for such high profit margins must surely be a good enough reason alone for decorators to give bags a go.