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HONG KONG FABRICS & ACCESSORIES 2000 Vol 2 - Company Profiles

 


Vol 2 2000




COMPANY PROFILES

HOMESPUN SUCCESS
Hing Ping Int'l Textile Ltd

KNITTED FOR SPORTS
Westcot Co Ltd


HOMESPUN SUCCESS

Hing Ping Int'l Textile Ltd

"WE'RE really going to concentrate on our new corespun range," says Joseph Law, marketing manager of Hing Ping Int'l Textile Ltd. He has good cause to be confident: the firm has invested heavily in this technique and believes it now has a product whose quality compares with that of North America and Europe, but with the benefit of mainland China-made prices.

The family-owned firm started in 1985 originally as a general trader but soon saw the potential of textiles. "Trading was easier in those days," says Law. A few years later it started manufacturing, on the mainland, and rapidly concentrated on spun polyester, which was sold mostly to the local Hong Kong market. After some time, Hing Ping concentrated exclusively on spun polyester products and expanded sales, first to South Asia, then moved out to Europe and North, South and Central America.

Hing Ping has invested heavily in the manufacturing process, with two plants in Shanghai and one in Beijing. Production runs to some 400 tonnes a month, "and is still going up", Law says. Altogether, some 2,000 people are employed at the factories, which cover an area of about 5,000 square metres.

One lesson learned from the Asian economic crisis is that the company was too specialised and needed to diversify. At the outset of the crisis in 1997, it started developing the new corespun products. There seemed to be a good market opportunity because, as Law explains, although good-quality products were available from North America and Europe, the prices were high. And although there was some competition from Asia, the quality was poor from that source.

He says Hing Ping is now able to offer a product that can meet the competition in terms of quality, but at substantially lower prices. "We have good quality control," Law says, claiming that "not many [mainland] China factories do".

Two new product ranges -- poly/poly corespun and cotton/poly corespun -- offer a choice of either a spun-polyester or a cotton fibre wrapped over a polyester filament, or "core". Initial market reaction has been good, from buyers seeking a strong thread -- yet retaining a soft feel -- such as that for jeans. Corespun adds considerably to the strength: according to Law, it is about 30% stronger than plain spun polyester.

Corespun is produced mostly on "Two For One" (TFO) machines, which have been installed at the company's factories. Spun polyester staple fibre comes from the best brands. The polyester filament comes from either Japan or Europe, while Egypt supplies the cotton. "Egyptian cotton is the best,"says Law.

The nature of the market is changing. Law says that Hing Ping tends to sell increasingly to importers and wholesalers these days. "We can sell vast quantities to them." Although the company sells direct to garment manufacturers, the quantities are often small. And just 2-3 years ago, as much as 90% of the market consisted of semi-finished products. Today that has dropped to around 60%, with the balance made up of finished products. The reason? It is too expensive to do the finishing process overseas, Law says.

As an indication of Hing Ping's willingness to use new technology, its Web site (www.hingping.com.hk) is unusually detailed, incorporating a factory tour, R&D information and a product guide.

Hing Ping has invested heavily in developing technology to the quality level demanded by the industry, and is able to link this with an existing sales network that covers the world.


KNITTED FOR SPORTS
Westcot Co Ltd

MADE from cotton/polyester, Dry-Tech is a double-layer, knitted fabric that is aimed squarely at the sportswear market. Chan Ping, business director of Westcot Co Ltd, emphasises that Dry-Tech is a knitted product and points to several of its properties, such as its availability in basic, jacquard or yarn-dyed stripe series, and the soft, "cotton" hand-feel that end-users demand.

Its most important quality, however, is what makes Dry-Tech such an ideal product for sportswear -- its ability to absorb water from the inner layer and move it quickly to the outer layer where it can be quickly "whisked" away in the air. Chan says the fabric has an ability to rapidly spread water across the surface, making absorption and dispersal easier. The company claims that Dry-Tech can release moisture by 70% in 45 minutes, while cotton releases just 50% in the same time.

Westcot is the Hong Kong-based sales arm of a large Thai corporation with a 30-year history. Today it employs some 7,000 people and is a fully vertically integrated operation that does everything from spinning cotton yarn, through to dyeing and printing and manufacturing finished garments. Locating the sales office in Hong Kong makes sense because, as Chan explains, so many overseas buyers have offices in the special administrative region, the telecommunications infrastructure is excellent, and Hong Kong's expertise is Quick Response.

Westcot continues to promote its other products -- mostly knitted fabrics and finished garments -- which it makes for sportswear companies such as Nike, Adidas, Fila and Umbro. However, as Chan says, "We're concentrating on Dry-Tech these days." The company launched the product at Interstoff Asia in Spring 1999, although development was initiated more than seven years ago.

With factories in Thailand, Westcot is able to keep its costs low. "Similar products tend to be much more expensive," says Chan. But quality is not sacrificed. "We deal with many big brand names: they understand the quality control we have."

An existing relationship with leading sportswear brands helps. But the company is looking to add a bit extra, such as providing free hang-tags for garments so end-users are informed about Dry-Tech.

Westcot is exploring markets in the US, Europe and East Asia, as well as possible new uses for the fabric. However, Chan believes the main market will remain in basic sportswear. Although Dry-Tech can be used in such standard products as the round-neck T-shirt, he says some buyers are looking to use Dry-Tech in, for example, underwear. The company plans to continue focusing on functional fabrics, with other customers expressing an interest in fabrics offering UV protection.

WRITTEN BY ALAN M ABRAHAMS

 

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