7 May 2007
A Proud Record(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 05,2007)
The company is probably best-known today for its superb manicure and pedicure sets that typically house a pair of nail clippers, a fine nail file, small scissors and a pair of tweezers.
Also popular are travel accessories; shoe-shine kits; wine sets, bar and cigar accessories; sets of travelling games and picture frames. About 90% of all metal products are made from stainless steel. Generally, production is focused on leather, PU and metal combinations.
"At the outset we were a trading company," says sales supervisor Yvonne Man. "Over the years we have handled a lot of assorted products, but things are different now and we specialise in certain lines."
She says that the firm's manicure sets form a popular export line. "However, we also export a lot of shoe-shine kits, bar and cigar accessories, jewellery and watch accessories, and desktop goods including wallets."
All of these lines are produced on an OEM basis as Far East (Wu's) does not do any own-brand business.
"Also, whereas we once used to collect all the items necessary for a particular kit, we now manufacture everything in-house - even the metal parts," says Man. "We source and purchase most raw materials from outside, and then do all the cutting and sewing ourselves."
To simplify matters, the factory operates two main lines: one for metals and one for sewing. "In addition, we have R&D and engineering departments and staff for quality control and inspection," Man adds. "Our R&D team is dedicated to developing fashionable and practical products to enrich the existing range and to meet new market needs."
The company has also built partnerships with well-known brand names, private labels and department stores. "Some major clients include Sears, Calvin Klein, Boots, Nautica, and Kohls," Man reveals.
Among the firm's bar-related items are a selection of attractive hip flasks, in either a shiny chrome plate or brush-finished stainless steel with coverings of split or full grain leather. These items are also shaped to fit comfortably and some models come complete with tumblers for a quick drink.
The cigar smokers' kits come with sharp-looking cutters and stubby ash-holders, while cocktail mix companion sets have a martini glass in a safe housing. There are also wine bottle holders for those who want to carry their favourite tipple with them wherever they go.
While the company trades worldwide, 50% of business is with the US and 40% with Europe. The remainder is with Asia and elsewhere. "We target the mid- to high-end of the market because we do not want to produce cheap goods," Man asserts.
"We believe in providing good quality and good design, and in offering excellent products to our customers at a reasonable price," she adds. "Most of our customers recognise the difference, and this approach works for us so that when we do business with well-known firms in the US and Europe they usually come back for more."
It's not that business is easy, however, and Far East (Wu's) must still work hard to maintain its market share. "Actually, the business is becoming more and more difficult," says Man. "The exchange rate between the Chinese yuan and the US dollar is now high, and workers' salaries are going up all the time. Of course, raw materials prices are also climbing."
While there is a Hong Kong office to handle export-related tasks, production takes place at the firm's subsidiary, Far East Metal and Plastic Mfy, that operates a 40,000-square-foot plant in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland and employs about 1,600 workers. The operation acquired ISO 9001 certification in 2002.
The plant comprises an administration building, blocks of apartments, a spacious leisure area and production area to accommodate the entire workforce and infrastructure. The infrastructure includes the mould-making, press and polish sections, plus areas for screen-printing, embossing and sewing, QC and final packing and inspection.
While looking ahead, Far East (Wu's) is also content to continue to enjoy excellent sales in its traditional lines.
Far East (Wu's) Industrial Co Ltd