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Zipping Ahead(HKTDC Fashion - Fabrics & Accessories, Vol 02,2008)

Zippers

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Derlin Zipper Co plans to focus on waterproof zippers in 2008, having sold a million yards of the popular product since March last year

The ability to innovate and adapt to the ever-changing whims of the garment industry is undoubtedly the key to success for accessories suppliers.

This is particularly important for small- and medium-sized zipper manufacturers who are trying to expand their market share in the face of ever-increasing competition.

What makes Derlin Zipper Co stand out is its willingness to try out new ideas such as the funky, colourful products that include "invisible" waterproof zippers - so-called because the teeth are hidden behind the waterproof tape and only the slider is visible - that have struck a strong chord with buyers over the past year.

The company, which started in 1994 as a manufacturer of zipper-making machinery before changing to making zippers a few years later, continues to produce every part of its zippers - including the tape, teeth, slider, puller and even the reinforcement tape.

Managing Director Tse Kin Kwok attributes this rare comprehensive production capacity to Derlin's ability to build its own machinery that can be adjusted quickly to produce new designs.

"Our focus in 2008 will be waterproof zippers," he reveals, adding that Derlin has sold "a million yards" of this popular product since March 2007.

Initially, Derlin had two machines that made waterproof zippers, but found it couldn't keep up with demand even when three more were added. "We added even more and now have 10 machines that can make 20,000 yards of waterproof zippers a day," Mr Tse notes. "If demand continues to grow, we may add 10 more machines this year."

The seamless waterproof nylon zippers are offered in a variety of colours, and do not require stitching as the zipper is glued onto the garment. "We tested it and the glue is stronger than stitching," Mr Tse insists.

Mainly used for apparel, particularly sportswear and knitwear, Derlin's zipper range includes metallic, coil and plastic models, as well as buckles, pullers, mobile phone straps and sliders in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

However, its focus over the past 2-3 years has been higher-end products that include waterproof zippers, which sell for HK$3.50 a yard compared to about HK$0.35 for traditional zippers.

The company's in-house design capabilities - which currently include two designers in Hong Kong and two based in its factory on the Chinese mainland - has enabled Derlin to produce new products every year.

"We're the only company in Hong Kong making invisible waterproof zippers and the only one in Hong Kong manufacturing reinforcement tape, and were also the first company to make rhinestone zippers a few years ago," claims Mr Tse.

He explains that competition at the low end is "very intense", and it therefore does not make sense to compete on price alone. "The way forward is to move to high-end production," he reasons. "We want to focus on quality, not quantity."

Derlin's products are sold under the D&D brand on the mainland, although Mr Tse says there is no difference in the type of products sold there compared to those sold in all other markets where the Derlin name is used.

He expects particularly strong demand for the company's waterproof zippers from Europe, especially Germany, this year. "We're hoping to expand our market share in Europe and raise recognition of our brand there this year."

Hikes in raw material and fuel costs over the past year have eaten into manufacturers' profit margins, which Mr Tse maintains is another reason why Derlin has to keep moving up the value chain.

However, conceiving new ideas is not as difficult as preventing competitors from copying them, and while he has considered taking out patents he is not so sure that is feasible in the short term. "It's a competitive market - even if we take out patents on our designs, this won't stop people from copying," Mr Tse declares.

Ultimately, he believes success is measured by how much money the business makes. "If we launch a new design and it is a hit, we'll enjoy it while it lasts," Mr Tse says. "Then we'll move on and try to come up with more new ideas."

TEXT BY CHIARA WONG

Fast Facts

Derlin Zipper Co
Rm 1007, Cheung Tat Centre
18 Cheung Lee St, Chai Wan
Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2505-9926
Fax: 852-2505-9897
Email:
ann@derlin.com
Web: www.derlin.com
Year Established: 1986
Major Product Categories: all kind of zippers, buckles, PVC labels
Own Brands & Certificates: Derlin, D&D;
ISO 9001, Oeko-Tex 100
Minimum Order: -
Monthly Production: 500,000 pieces
Delivery Time: 10-14 days
Factory Size & Location: Shenzhen
Workforce: 200