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Brilliant Business(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 01,2008)

Lamps & Chandeliers

 

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Stand Max Trading Ltd offers a range of contemporary lamps and lampshades that display a strongly European design sense

With headquarters in Europe and production facilities on the Chinese mainland, Stand Max Trading Ltd is charting an increasingly familiar course on the world's international commerce map.

The company, which specialises in contemporary lamps, lampshades and chandeliers, maintains a strongly European design sense while making the most of the cost advantages of manufacturing on the Chinese mainland.

"My idea is that people will want to buy our products because of our Stand Max brand," says owner and Sales Manager Bob Schenkel. "What we want to create is a lighting brand that everyone wants."

The manufacturer has won praise in recent years for its innovative use of organza and embroidered crepe georgette in lampshades. "It's unusual to use organza because the material is translucent," Mr Schenkel notes. "Before, people would mostly use silk or shantung fabric but we like finding new, interesting materials."

Embroidery, on the other hand, adds an element of artistry and old-world charm. Other materials used in lampshades include raffia, stonewashed linen and cotton, while lamp bases come in wood, polyresin and metal.

At unit prices of US$6-30 FOB China for lamps, and US$16-98 for metal-and-glass or acrylic-and-glass chandeliers, Stand Max is taking aim squarely at the medium-priced John-and-Jane market. "We don't want to be the most expensive or the cheapest," says Mr Schenkel.

The firm's export markets stretch from Europe to Japan and from Brazil to Australia. Half of its products are sold under the Stand Max brand and half are produced on an OEM/ODM basis.

Exhibiting at such shows as the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair has helped the company establish a name for itself in Asia. "The first time we came, in 2000, we were overwhelmed with orders," Mr Schenkel remembers. "Each time we come back, we try to do better than the year before. A little challenge is nice."

He says that Stand Max has come a long way since the firm was established in 1939 by his father in Delft, in the Netherlands, as a small woodworking factory crafting handmade European-style furniture, including wooden lamps.

Business was put on hold by World War II, although once hostilities ended the company thrived in the post-war boom.

Lampshades were added to its range after a customer wanted one to go with a lamp base. By the 1970s and 1980s, Stand Max was concentrating on lamps and turning out 5,000-8,000 lamps per week.

"My father never wanted the company to be too big," explains Mr Schenkel, who took over the firm in 1982. "It was in my blood, and I used to play in the factory when I was a child."

Like his father, he found that he had a knack for design and "liked to create things". Having studied economics at university, he had briefly worked in the pharmaceutical industry before settling into the family business.

For several years, he lived a "nice, relaxed" life running the operation in a small city in the Netherlands, much in the tradition of his father. But a keen business sense later persuaded the young entrepreneur to take the firm to a new level.

"In 1991, I decided to sell the woodworking part (which included the lamp base manufacturing) because I couldn't get the labour I needed and because there were so many government regulations to comply with," he says.

Stand Max kept designing lampshades and lamp bases, but outsourced production of the latter.

Still beset by the labour shortage, Mr Schenkel took his first bold step in Asia in 2000.

"First, we started buying lampshades from different sources and then we made the decision to produce all of our lampshades in China," he says.

By 2006, the firm was also making lamp bases and chandeliers on the Chinese mainland. Today, lamps account for 30% of Stand Max's sales and chandeliers 30%, with lampshades rounding out the remainder. Half of the lampshades are sold on the mainland.

Production at its Foshan and Jiangmen factories has brought the company back full circle as a manufacturer, which pleases Mr Schenkel. "I want to go back to the way we did things before," he says nostalgically.

Except that, of course, today the company's output is 4-5 times greater than when he took over. "When I first bought the company, I had no intention of expanding," he recalls.

"However, we needed to grow and that was inevitable. But we don't want to get too big. We're trying to find customers that fit us. We want buyers who are creative people."

Mixing a business career with a creative art like designing has turned out to be the best of both worlds for Mr Schenkel, the firm's sole designer who strives "to keep people interested in the things we make".

That way, Stand Max's lighting products will always continue to shine in world markets.

TEXT BY ANDREA PAWLYNA

FAST FACT 

Stand Max Trading Ltd
Van Coehoornsstraat 16
5916 PH Venlo
Holland
Tel: 31-077-356-0180
Fax: 31-077-351-4499
Email:
standmax_bob@163.com
Year Established: 1937
Major Product Categories: shades, chandeliers, lamps
Brands & Certificates: Stand Max; GS, RoHS
Minimum Order: 150 pieces
Monthly Production Capacity: -
Delivery Time: 45 days
Factory Size & Location: Foshan & Jiangmen
Workforce: 150