9 March 2007
On the Move(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 03,2007)
KPS Enterprises Ltd
|KPS Enterprises Ltd turns out some three million sweaters, skirts, hats, scarves, gloves, headbands and blankets per year|
Known for novel, trendy and quality sweaters and fashion accessories, OEM knitwear manufacturer KPS Enterprises Ltd has big plans for the future.
The energetic, second generation family-owned business is embarking on a variety of new directions, including expanding its production capacity and overseas markets, setting up an ODM operation and producing environmentally-friendly products.
When export manager Ruby Wong's father and uncle founded KPS, the company only sold its products locally. However, exporting was one of the main priorities of Wong, her sister and brother when they assumed control of the business about 10 years ago.
"Today we export to the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, and our market in Russia is increasing fast," says Wong. "We're also looking at Japan. We need to continue exploring new markets because the world is changing all the time."
The whirr of more than 500 manual knitting machines at the company's factories is soon to be complemented by automatic knitting machines imported from Italy or Japan. "The manual machines require one operator per machine, but with the automatic machines one person could operate 5-10 machines," says Wong. "We hope to have 1,000 automatic machines in the next 1-2 years."
Quality workmanship and competitive pricing have always been the OEM firm's trump cards in attracting and retaining customers. "Besides having many knitwear factories, Fujian Province, where we have our factory, also has many fabric suppliers so we can get material easily. The bigger the order, the better the price we can get," Wong explains.
"We always have competition but if one's quality is good and one delivers on time, one always has customers - some of ours have been with us for more than 10 years."
However, she believes the time is right for KPS to move up into more value-added goods. Toward that end, the company has decided to hire a team of designers. "We've only done OEM, and that's what we are familiar with, but ODM is the next step," Wong adds. The company has already chosen two in-house brand names for its future collections - Esmod for women's wear and Pimy for menswear.
With social and environmental consciousness high on the company's agenda, the ISO-certified firm's factory also achieved certification in 2006 from Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP), an independent, non-profit group dedicated to "lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world".
"We are not only concerned with production; we also want to provide our workers with a better environment so they stay with us. We want them to be happy," she declares.
Products featuring natural fibres are a key area the company hopes will catch on with the public. Two years ago, KPS introduced hats and sweaters made out of a combination of bamboo, naturally coloured cotton and wool. The items are not dyed and their production creates no pollution or harmful environmental effects.
"They're less than 2%-3% of our sales now, but we hope to increase that to 20%. They're very good items for babies," Wong says.
KPS turns out some three million sweaters, skirts, hats, scarves, gloves, headbands and blankets per year from its two factories in Xiamen and Zhejiang Province on the Chinese mainland. It also subcontracts an equal amount of production units to 15 networked OEM factories also on the mainland.
About 40% of its products is geared for men, 40% for women and 20% for children. Sweaters account for about 60% of production.
The company uses a wide range of raw materials, including cotton, acrylic, wool/blended, lambs wool/nylon, angora, mohair, viscose/nylon, chenille, merino wool, cashmere and alpaca for knitted and cut-and-sewn products.
KPS' expertise at a variety of knitting techniques, such as jersey, rib, cable, hand knitting, crochet, pointelle, jacquard, intarsia and double knit has made it a trusted supplier for more than 30 international brand names.
Although still beset by quota restrictions and, more recently, by the financial consequences of the appreciation of the Chinese renminbi, neither has discouraged KPS in the least from having an optimistic outlook about the future. "We still think the market is very big, with lots of opportunities for growth," says Wong. "Our sales have gone up steadily year after year, but in two or three years we expect to see our best times ever."
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA