1 March 2004
Quality Conscious(HKTDC Fashion - Fabrics & Accessories, Vol 01,2004)
Vol 1, 2004
Confirm (Int'l) Enterprise Ltd
A firm belief in quality and good client relationships are the keys to success for Confirm (Int'l) Enterprise Ltd
Ribbons and bows can be described as the "icing on the cake" for fashion design but, as with the cake, if the icing is not quite right it affects the entire product. Keeping up with fashion trends, paying attention to the demands of particular markets and ensuring good quality are essential, as Confirm (Int'l) Enterprise Ltd knows.
Confirm is a trading company that exports ribbons, rosettes, elastic cords, pompoms, chenille and packaging accessories to the US and Europe. Established with one office and four people in Hong Kong in 1996, it has now more than doubled in size.
In the first two years, the company's operations were simple and it concentrated on ribbon and elastic cord. However, it soon expanded its range in response to market demand. The highlight was handmade ribbon bows used to adorn outer garments, lingerie and toys.
About 70% of production goes to the US, with the balance destined for the UK. Customers are mainly packaging companies and large chain-store retailers.
"There are differences between the two markets," says manager Jack Leung. "For example, the US places much bigger orders - one million items from a single customer in a year - and the price is cheaper. Also, the ribbon market is larger in the US, while the UK seems to like elastic cord more."
He also notes that in the US market trends change frequently, with different styles and colours demanded each year, while the UK is more traditional and prefers to stick with the same designs. Peak times are Easter and Christmas for both markets.
The company is keen to develop new markets in Europe to combat the comparatively low prices of the US. To this end, the company is stepping up advertising and joining in various activities run by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to promote Hong Kong companies.
Confirm does not have its own production facilities, but it has developed very close relationships with three factories: one in Kaohsiung in Taiwan, and two in Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland. Each of the factories employs about 1,000 workers. Taking all three operations together, Confirm handles about 500,000 items a month.
The factories themselves usually carry out the designs of the products, but customers sometimes request something special. "Our clients may give us a sample of something we have never seen before and so we approach one of our factories and ask them to make it," says Leung.
Quality control is imperative. "For each order, staff from Hong Kong visit the factory concerned three or four times during production to see how things are running and to check on quality," says Leung.
The mainland's accession to the World Trade Organization has caused some concerns at Confirm. "The Chinese mainland market is now open to overseas buyers, including those from the US and UK, and there is the chance that they will go directly to manufacturers on the mainland to buy ribbon. However, it is difficult for them and they can face many problems. If people come through us, we can take control because we have relationships with both customers and producers, and everyone can rely on us to be the honest broker."
The solution, he says, is to maintain good relationships with customers and assure them of quality and service.
"Business is tough, sometimes it is hard enough to just keep walking. But we do have plans to increase business in the next three to four years and become a leader in garment and packaging accessories," says Leung. "We will take it step by step and not rush into anything."
WRITTEN BY ANN WILLIAMS
Confirm (Int'l) Enterprise Ltd
Flat E, 20/F, Blk 2,
Golden Dragon Ind Centre,
162-170 Tai Lin Pai Rd,
Kwai Chung, New Territories,
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