11 Aug 2004
Generating Loyalty(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 08,2004)
Hong Kong Brands
Hunters Leatherwares Ltd
Hunters Leatherwares Ltd has successfully built its own brands and earned an international reputation for quality
Hong Kong companies in today's highly competitive marketplace increasingly use branding to differentiate their products and endow them with the qualities most likely to attract and appeal to customers.
This is certainly the experience Hunters Leatherwares Ltd had with its Fion range of handbags, originally launched in 1979. In this case, the careful selection and marketing of the brand name has generated a loyal following and an enduring reputation for quality.
"Successful branding allows you to create more meaningful relationships with your customers - a relationship that ultimately goes beyond price," explains marketing manager Minna Chiu. "Our Fion range was especially created for young, female executives looking for distinctive colours and styles with character."
The company's single product branding approach has evolved into whole product line branding. "As a result of the success of Fion, we subsequently launched Fion Young, to appeal to the younger segment of the market, and Simbolo, which combines fashion and practical features in a range of bags aimed at the men's market," says Chiu.
She cautions that some decisions about branding are required at the outset. "For example, ensuring that the [proposed] brand name fits in with the company's image and its long-term strategies. Also, target markets should be carefully evaluated to see if the brand image would attract customer attention."
Success is monitored through increased sales and customer feedback. "We have agents in Japan and an associate office in Singapore for distributing products and maintaining a high profile presence. Agents and clients are also consulted on trends and ideas for new designs," says Chiu.
The company chooses to mainly manufacture and distribute its own brands rather than compete on an ODM basis with other manufacturers. "We see this as the best way to continue growing the company and it also fits comfortably with our corporate culture," she says.
"Building a brand name or image should be considered a long term commitment, and all levels of management need to be involved. Furthermore, the corporate culture should focus on the core components of building and promoting a brand," she adds.
"Through promoting our products as an added-value brand we try to create a platform for long-term customer preference. This requires attention to detail and stringent quality control and we put a lot of investment into product development and updated designs. We continually look for ways to make improvements."
Chiu says for smaller companies, well-focused and consistent attention to branding, and creating memorable positioning of a product in the minds of prospects and customers, are the most effective ways to compete for market share.
"Branding is becoming a major factor in the competitive arena regardless of where the market is located," she says.
New designs are constantly being developed and can quickly be launched on to the market. "We plan to continue strengthening our branding through expanding our product lines and focusing on quality and value-for-money," Chiu says. "An extensive network has been established to provide timely and efficient distribution in different markets."
After consulting with clients and distributors, new collections are launched using strategic promotions. "We use a mix of print advertising, marketing exercises and planned distribution to reach our audiences," Chiu explains. "Newspaper and magazine advertising for each product line is strategically designed to reach each specific target."
The firm's major markets are in Asia, particularly Japan, the Chinese mainland and Singapore. "We have opened more than 100 wholesale and retail outlets in 30 major cities on the Chinese mainland, where we employ more than 100 sales and marketing staff," says Chiu. "At the same time, we are expanding into Europe and Canada."
The company also welcomes customer's own designs and can provide tailor-made samples according to a client's special requirements. Delivery is normally 45-60 days after order confirmation depending on the size of the order and the availability of raw materials.
Manufacturing takes place in a 60,000-square-foot factory employing 600 workers in Huizhou, in Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland.
In addition to handbags, the 25-year-old firm manufactures a range of small leather goods, business bags, back-to-school bags, casual travel bags and accessories. The handbags and accessories are designed in-house and manufactured from leather, PVC and nylon, while most of the leather used is sourced from Italy. Each item is produced in a wide assortment of colours.
Through its commitment to quality and innovative design, Hunters Leatherwares anticipates its Fion, Fion Young and Simbolo brand names will be seen dangling from the arms of increasing numbers of executives, fashion-conscious young ladies and travellers for a long time to come.
WRITTEN BY CHRIS DAVIS
Hunters Leatherwares Ltd
Unit 31, Block B,
11/F, Focal Industrial Centre,
21 Man Lok St, Hung Hom,
Kowloon, Hong Kong