1 April 2001
2000 HONG KONG AWARDS FOR INDUSTRY(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 01,2001)
Vol. 1, 2001
TRADE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL EXPORT MARKETING AWARD
TRADE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL CERTIFICATE OF MERIT IN EXPORT MARKETING
2000 HONG KONG AWARDS FOR INDUSTRY
Aong the winners of the 2000 Hong Kong Awards for Industry in the export marketing category were Topchoice Industries Limited and Prosperity Lamps & Components Limited.
We reprint the profiles of these outstanding companies here.
Topchoice Industries Limited
ANY company selling into the crowded European porcelain tableware market must be able to face up to aggressive competition and restrictions of working within the quota system. In this environment Topchoice Industries Limited has carved out a niche for itself thanks to its outstanding export marketing capabilities. Its commitment to continuous product development, strong branding and ability to generate fresh designs were just some of the reasons why it won a TDC Export Marketing Award.
Founded in 1990, this relatively young company started out as an ordinary trading firm but in 1997 became a design and marketing oriented company. It formed a design studio to turn out the dozens of new designs needed each year and to help the export marketing team develop unique and artistic tableware, explains Willie Tan, director for product development.
"Forming our own design studio was an integral part of our export marketing strategy and this investment enabled us to keep up with market trends," he says.
The team comes up with about 100 new designs a year, including 30-50 new collections for each trade show the company attends. Of these, 20-25 styles will sell and about 10 are expected to become best sellers that season. Good design is what marks out one company from the competition and has played a major part in Topchoice's success, says Tan.
The company's own brand, Multiple Choice, now accounts for 95% of sales and was launched in 1997 as part of a drive to take Topchoice products upmarket. As well as developing its own brand name, the company started using raw materials imported from the UK, Germany and South Korea, worked closely with its factories to produce a lighter, whiter and more durable porcelain, and came up with striking packaging to mark out Topchoice from the competition at the retail level.
"Our products sell in speciality stores and department stores, and in this environment the box itself is the product's salesman. Because of stiff competition from other manufacturers, we have to have an edge with regard to packaging. We have invested a lot of brainstorming time and money to make the box more appealing to the consumer," explains Tan.
Boxed sets of porcelain tableware are a popular gift in European countries, and for this segment of the market, the packaging itself is part of the product's appeal. Whether for personal use or gift-giving, each box must not only be eye-catching but also give the consumer a clear and accurate idea of what they are buying, says Tan. Although the company sells worldwide, Europe is its most important market, absorbing 55% of exports.
As well as traditional 20-piece boxed sets for four settings comprising dinner plate, side plate, bowl, cup and saucer, Topchoice sells items individually and has also developed two-setting, 10-piece sets and a range of companion products such as tea pots, espresso cups, mugs and serving dishes. Its reputation for constantly generating new products and boxed-set combinations that suit the changing demands of the market ensures that Topchoice is a must-see for trade visitors to the major houseware fairs in Hong Kong and Frankfurt.
"People always want to see what's new at Topchoice because we are a trend-setter in the market," says Tan.
WRITTEN BY JANE PARRY
Prosperity Lamps & Components Limited
IN the 20 years since its founding, Prosperity Lamps & Components Limited has grown into a respected worldwide supplier of lamps, fixtures and components.
The firm's high-quality, long-lasting halogen lamps, or bulbs, are manufactured by its joint-venture company in Foshan on the Chinese mainland - QL Lamps & Components Ltd - and exported to Europe and North America.
"Halogen lamps are our best-selling product," says Alfred Chong, the firm's president and founder, noting that the lamps generate about 40% of the firm's total revenues. Sales are evenly divided between the company's own brand and OEM brands.
The factory on the mainland, a partnership between Prosperity Lamps and Foshan Electric and Lighting Ltd, produces the firm's own KANDOlite-brand halogen lamps. When it was established in 1989, QL Lamps & Components was the company's first undertaking on the mainland.
A second joint venture followed in 1995, this time between Prosperity, Foshan Electric and OSRAM, which belongs to the Siemens group of companies. OSRAM Foshan Ltd manufactures automotive lamps, compact fluorescent energy-saving lamps, discharge lamps and fluorescent lamps for sale locally and for export.
Prosperity also operates a wholly owned factory in Langfang, Hebei Province, that makes lamp fixtures, mainly for the mainland's industrial market and for export.
Chong started his business after working for seven years as the area manager in Asia for a US-based lamp maker. His first product was a series of professional lamps used for television, stage, studio and photographic lighting. Today, Prosperity turns out dozens of models for both industrial and home use, a total of more than 50 million pieces per year. In addition, the company also sells incandescent lamps.
From the beginning, Prosperity's method of dealing with sole distributors in different countries has been an effective strategy in penetrating markets in Asia, Europe and North America. "It has worked out very well," Chong says. "We build up long-term relationships with our distributors. Once we have that kind of relationship, it's not so easy for our competitors to move in. Our distributors let us know - if they do so we can try to match their offer, both in prices and products."
The company's product training for its overseas distributors cements that relationship and is a key ingredient in the distributors' ability to provide after-sales service to customers.
"The distributors have to come here for one to two weeks for training. We bring them to the factory and show them how the lamp bulb is made so they can see the whole process," says Chong.
Prosperity's strong customer orientation is reflected by its in-house product development team, which develops quality lamp products and provides professional support services to OEM customers.
One patented product has been a coloured d莜or lighting lamp, launched in 1998. The lamp gives off true colour yellow, blue, green, red or blue light. Boutiques, department stores and jewellery shops use it to create special lighting effects for displays, but the lamp can also be used in homes.
"The colour comes from the reflector, not the bulb. The light is just as bright as a regular bulb because of the technique that we use," Chong explains.
The team continually works on extending the life of the company's dichroic halogen lamps, which now last for up to 5,000 hours, along with improving their brightness.
Quality control is another area that has a high priority at Prosperity's factories. Rather than testing at random, every lamp is individually checked before being shipped. "We want to make sure the lamps that leave our factories are good ones," Chong maintains.
To reduce the possibility of error, the Hong Kong headquarters acts as a central distribution point. All lamps are shipped there first, so the cartons can be checked to ensure they are properly marked and the contents undamaged. Final random checking of export-bound lamps is conducted in Hong Kong.
Plans call for developing a market in South America. "We already have an agent in Argentina," Chong says, full of optimism about what lies ahead.
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
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