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Illuminating Spectacle Shining Brightly(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 01,2008)

Hong Kong International Fair

 

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There was something for everyone at Asia's leading lighting fair, befitting the growth and development of a burgeoning global industry

The increasing trend towards energy-efficient products was one of the highlights of the recent Hong Kong International Lighting Fair, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from October 28-31.

For example, John Ranshaw, President and CEO of Con-Tech Lighting of Northbrook, Illinois, the US, maintained energy conservation was a "huge" trend.

"The former incandescent lamp sources, being fairly high wattage and low efficiency, are yielding to low-wattage, high-efficiency sources like metal halide or compact fluorescent," he observed, adding that he wanted products to match the trend.

"It's good for the Earth, and it's good for business as some of the existing technologies go into forced obsolescence, paving the way for new ones."

Mr Ranshaw said his firm dealt in commercial lighting fixtures, much of which consists of track lights used in shops. "We light about 400 retail-store chains across the US and Canada - everyone from Gap to Old Navy to Bed, Bath and Beyond," he added.

There's "powerful pressure" in the US on stores as to how many watts per square foot are acceptable, which decides the lighting options. "Of course, the stores still need to be well-lit as properly illuminated stores always outsell ones that aren't," Mr Ranshaw noted. "It's a challenge to find good alternative sources of lighting that still get the job done."

After sourcing at the Hong Kong Int'l Lighting Fair and elsewhere, Con-Tech distributes from a 100,000-square-foot facility in Northbrook. "We buy from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Korea and throughout Asia," Mr Ranshaw revealed.

The products usually arrive at a northern container port, like Tacoma or Vancouver, and are immediately placed on trains to Chicago, where they are put onto trucks and then delivered. "We can get transit out of Hong Kong in 21 or 22 days to our dock, which is pretty good," Mr Ranshaw enthused.

He always looked for new partners, new factories and new product ideas at the Hong Kong Int'l Lighting Fair. "Increasingly, the fair is a hub to manage all of our existing relationships," Mr Ranshaw said. "We meet with people from nearly all of our key factories when we're at the show."

Meanwhile, fellow buyer Aleksandr Sakhno, Chief Executive of Moscow-based lighting and electrical equipment importer and wholesaler Compact-Optima Ltd, wanted to buy only at the most attractive prices. "Russian customers prefer the cheapest lamps," he said.

He had come to Hong Kong to look at lamps, different products and equipment. "My customers like outdoor lamps and tube lamps," Mr Sakhno noted. "I've seen inexpensive tube lamps, but the outdoor lamps appear to be very expensive for the Russian market."

He observed that the Russian market is growing fast. "Our business is up," Mr Sukhno said of his decade-old company, which serves customers from across Russia, employs more than 50 people and sources from the Chinese mainland. "Two years ago, we'd buy one container a month and now we buy more than five containers per month."

However, N.V. Torrente SL Import Manager Pepa Torrente sees dim prospects in her home market. "Our business is lighting," she said of the family firm, which is based in Valencia, Spain. "We sell to customers across Spain and used to manufacture most of our own lighting, but now we come to buy in Hong Kong."

Ms Torrente said the Hong Kong fair gave N.V. Torrente the best connections to meet new Chinese companies. "We find new designs, new products and new suppliers," she enthused.

However, she believed that it was getting difficult because "there's so much competition", despite the fact that 80% of N.V. Torrente SL's products come from the Chinese mainland and much of the rest emerges from its Spanish factory.

"Now even my customers attend the Hong Kong fair," Ms Torrente noted. "With the Spanish market in decline, they believe that by going to Hong Kong they can secure higher profits - even if they buy from me."

Spanish customers take an interest in two styles - modern or classic she said. "At the moment, they prefer modern," Ms Torrente observed. "We used to produce classic and rustic items, but we've switched to modern lighting."

Also seeking the latest products and the best prices was Robert Kitto Pty Ltd Managing Director Andrew Kitto, whose company was started by his father 47 years ago. "We specialise in decorative lighting used when restoring old homes," he explained.

Adelaide-based Robert Kitto started as a manufacturer but, as Mr Kitto noted, Australia has high labour costs so "not many" companies produce there now. "Instead, they import, mainly from China - in fact, we've become a rarity by still doing a little manufacturing in Australia," he maintained.

He was sourcing components and completed products. "The fair is well organised, and many people exhibit," Mr Kitto added. "With China leading the way in making so many lighting products, Hong Kong is the right place to source."

He admitted he would consider attending a European trade fair too. "But Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland are closer to Australia so it's always quicker to get the goods from there," Mr Kitto said.

Also interested in shop lighting, this time for the Middle East and beyond, was StarsLine Electrical Equipment Trading LLC Director Basheer Pychikal from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Recently, the five-year-old company opened an office in Mumbai, India, adding to its established offices in Dubai and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"We're importers," Mr Pychikal explained. "In Dubai, we stock lighting fixtures and supply our customers from there, and are very strong in markets like Bahrain, Qatar and Oman."

Retail lighting makes a "huge" difference, he maintained, as shops without intense lighting can't show their products well. "The demand for retail lighting increases fast in our markets," Mr Pychikal noted. "I've heard that 1,000 new shopping malls are coming up in India alone."

Mr Pychikal has visited the Hong Kong Int'l Lighting Fair four times and insisted that it is useful every year. "The main thing is that I can meet with all my suppliers," he noted. "We always see a lot of new designs too, so the fair updates my knowledge."

Focusing on a different product sector was importer David Chevin, the Managing Director of Eurotech Lighting Ltd, which is based in Auckland, New Zealand.

He wanted upmarket products, ideally European in style and design. "Design is slowly changing, and Asia's more influenced by Europe," Mr Chevin believes.

Eurotech distributes lighting across New Zealand and he was seeking "better-designed" products. "We've attended the Hong Kong fair for many years," Mr Chevin revealed, adding that he buys "lots" from Asia and "some" from Europe.

This time he noticed many exhibitors pushing LEDs, which are energy-efficient. "But perhaps LEDs still have a long way to go to become a really good alternative to conventional light sources."

He regards New Zealand's market as stable. "Demand increases over the years and people grow far more conscious of lighting," Mr Chevin said. "The market expands, but gradually and with lots of competition."

The same is true all over the world, as is buyer awareness that the Hong Kong Int'l Lighting Fair remains the first and best place to find the perfect products for their market.

 

DESIGN DOMINATES

A designer world of products took the spotlight at the opening of the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair, which was held in conjunction with the Hong Kong International Hardware and Home Improvement Fair.

The largest show of its kind in Asia, the Lighting Fair attracted more than 1,340 exhibitors from 31 countries and regions, a 10% increase over last year.

The show featured a dazzling array of new and innovative products, including residential and office lighting, outdoor lighting, festive lighting and parts and accessories.

Two bright new sections were added:

  • the Crystal Indulgence Zone - a showcase for crystal lighting and chandeliers of the highest quality
  • Galaxy of Stars - a platform that displayed lighting in a sophisticated environment

Familiar favourites making a welcome return included the popular Green Lighting Zone, Holiday Favour Zone, Outdoor Lighting Section, Parts and Accessories Pavilion and World of Table Lamps.

Also in the limelight was the 1st Hong Kong Lighting Design Competition, whose Light Up Your Future theme attracted the cream of Hong Kong designers.

Inaugural Champion, Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education design student Fan Cheuk Hang, was inspired by the path of the planets to create his Trajectory design, which allows users to randomly place bulbs along a metal circuit.

"The design took me three weeks to complete from inspiration to output," said Mr Fan, who added that "the most difficult challenge was making the metal circuit light up the bulbs."

Clearly, the eye-catching designs featured in the competition will ensure that the Hong Kong lighting industry continues to shine brightly.

"Hong Kong exports of lighting products totalled US$955m in the first eight months of 2007, while exports of hardware and building materials increased to US$8.4bn over the same period last year," noted Hong Kong Trade Development Council Member Eddy Lee.

"Over the last several years, much more emphasis has been placed on design engineering and quality."

The Hong Kong Int'l Hardware and Home Improvement Fair held concurrently offered a comprehensive range of hardware and home improvement products from 137 exhibitors representing 10 countries and regions.

A new DIY Zone showcased handles, power tools, hand tools, locks and do-it-yourself products, while the Décor Zone, Outdoor and Gardening World and Sanitary World sections also proved popular with buyers and suppliers.