30 May 2008
Toppicks(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 06,2008)
Hats & Caps
Hats and caps are moving upmarket with special finishes and embellishments
Nothing completes an outfit as stylishly as a well-constructed hat or cap that can be the perfect accessory to formal or casual wear, and Hong Kong rises to the occasion with a terrific selection of stylish headgear.
One firm offering great variety is Hong Kong Goldtex Trading Ltd, which produces cut-and-sew caps and hats.f "About 80% of our business is in baseball caps and 20% in ladies' fashion hats," explains Managing Director Sally Ngan, noting that each season the company produces about 36 "mainly cotton" styles.
"The typical six-panel model comprises about 80% of all our business in caps, with the remainder being five-panel versions that appeal to demand from surfing sports and so on," Ms Ngan explains.
Hong Kong Goldtex has its own R&D department to extend its product range. "Each season we develop 5-6 wash types and 5-6 fabric options," Ms Ngan notes, stating that the average unit price for the company's OEM headwear is US$1.50-3.00 FOB Bangladesh or China.
"The US currently accounts for 75% of exports, with the remainder going to Asia-Pacific and Europe," she says, adding that while the firm's primary focus is OEM, two years ago it started its own cap brand, Beyond 18th, for the growing golf market on the mainland.
"Beyond 18th caps are available at golfing clubs on the mainland, such as Mission Hills, and this year we are developing Internet sales in China," Ms Ngan says. "Our own-brand caps are aimed at the mid-market, and retail from RMB120-180 each."
To step up promotion, the firm sponsors China's third-ranked golfer, Li Chao. "Our sponsorship not only gives us exposure but also helps us to better understand the relatively new golf market there," explains Ms Ngan.
"Our vision," she adds, "is to slowly develop hat sales over the next two years to minimise investment risks, and add new items to the brand in 2008-2009, such as accessories and possibly apparel."
Also focusing on cut-and-sew caps and hats, Global Headwear Ltd offers its own designs in addition to catering to OEM customers. "About half of our caps are tailor-made, and we also have around 40 styles of our own," notes General Manager Jacky Ngan.
"Our most popular product is the six-panel cap, which is a perennial favourite, and we also produce fashion hats in all styles, including bucket hats and visors," he adds.
Over the past decade, the company has gradually moved away from the premiums sector to high-end fashion hats for the sports and retail markets, supplying leading brands.
The last five years have also seen high demand in the sports market for Global Headwear's patented Nu-Fit collection of caps, which has the durability and stability of a spandex sweatband to provide a consistently comfortable fit.
"One of our latest Nu-Fit models is in spandex mesh, which is a quality breathable cap highly suited to the sporting goods market, and priced at US$2.50 per piece FOB Hong Kong in a six-panel version," Mr Ngan says, revealing that the company is also developing a new patented cap to be available later in 2008.
The US, which is Global Headwear's biggest market, accounts for 80% of the firm's exports. Europe takes almost all of the remainder.
"We are looking to expand our business in Europe," Mr Ngan observes. "While order quantities are usually lower there than from the US, customers in Europe are willing to pay more for better quality."
In a slightly different niche, knitwear specialist KPS Enterprises Ltd manufactures a wide variety of knitted hats, primarily for OEM customers.
"Hat manufacturing forms an integral part of our accessories operations, which complement our knitted sweaters and cardigans business," explains Export Manager Ruby Wong.
The company produces machine-knit, hand-knit and crochet hats using different materials to suit all budgets. "We offer cotton, wool, lambswool, angora, mohair, merino wool, cashmere, alpaca and a combination of these materials," notes Ms Wong. "The higher-end market opts for more luxury wool, including mohair and merino, while customers wanting more affordable products choose cotton/acrylic," she advises.
As for knitting techniques and effects, Ms Wong observes that the current trend is for cable, pointelle and jacquard, special treatments such as acid-wash, and decorations including beads, sequins and patches in faux and real leather.
Hat prices from KPS Enterprises Ltd range from about US$0.5-4.0 a piece FOB Hong Kong/China, depending on style, material and quantity.
The company's biggest export destination is Europe, followed by the US. "Russia has good future market potential, especially with its cold climate," notes Ms Wong.
She reports "steady growth" in business and claims the firm's quality and reliable service provide a competitive edge, while ISO 9001 and Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP) certifications reflect its strength and credibility.
Indeed, quality seems to be the essence of today's Hong Kong hat and cap market as manufacturers explore new fabric combinations and treatments to keep customers worldwide nodding their heads in approval.
TEXT BY SANDRA JENNER