1 April 2005
A Strong Hand(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2005)
A leading manufacturer of playing cards with a factory in Shanghai, SCD is also the Hong Kong arm of the state-owned enterprise Shanghai Light Industry Holding Group, which has more than 200 factories and about 100,000 workers across several industries.
"SCD was founded in Hong Kong in 1983, when its main business was general trading in the group's products," says administration manager and company veteran Irene Chan.
"Over the years, we gradually changed direction until recent times when we started to concentrate more on paper products and plastic materials - even though we remain the group's agent for sewing machines that are exported to West Africa and also watch movements sold to makers in Hong Kong," she adds.
"Playing cards, though, are easily our biggest line. While most of the designs we offer are for conventional-sized cards, we actually make cards in all shapes and sizes - including triangles, hexagons, circles, hearts, diamonds or whatever else the customer wants."
Many of SCD's playing cards are used as entertainment/ promotional items, given away to advertise not only airlines but beer (including San Miguel, Carlsberg, Guinness and Budweiser), cognac (Hennessy), big US retail chains (Target) and even a hardware chain (ACO).
"Additionally, we produce novelty packs of cards such as maxi-packs measuring 6 3/4 x 41/4 inches and mini-packs measuring only 21/4 x 11/2 inches. These are mostly for children, although we have even smaller star-shaped novelty cards especially made for children in Japan," says Chan.
"No matter the shape of card the customer requests, we have the machines to make all sorts of designs, including animals, fish and flowers. All of these are highly popular with children, and flexibility in design is an important plus that keeps us ahead of the competition that doesn't have the special die-cuts to create these shapes," she claims.
The company's biggest single order was for 3.8 million packs of miniature playing cards to Japan and one million packs of regular cards for a big casino in Las Vegas that used them as hand-outs.
"What helps us maintain our strong position in the market is our excellent printing, good coating (varnishing) and overall high quality," says Chan. "We achieve this thanks to fast, hi-tech colour printing machines from Germany and the mainland."
She adds that the firm's products also conform to the safety and environmental standards in force in the US and Europe. "Our other strength over the competition is our ability to print any quantity, any design and any shape - genuinely, whatever the customer requests."
However, more competitors are now entering the market - including some Hong Kong firms - and business keeps getting tougher. "To maintain our position, we react quickly to customers' inquiries and fill orders promptly, usually within 15-25 days for mass-production items," says Chan.
Monthly output from one of the group's factories in Pudong in Shanghai is about four million packs of cards, which at 54 cards per pack (including two jokers) amounts to 216 million cards.
The cards are produced on 270gsm, 280gsm or 300gsm grey centre paper, or 280gsm blue centre paper that is varnished on both sides to produce a glossy look and feel.
A secondary line from SCD is an attractive series of gift boxes in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs. The upper end of these products, a box to grace a dressing table, includes a lift-up mirror for applying make-up and a drawer for rings and earrings.
Among the firm's other paper products are children's puzzles, notebooks and stationery for schoolchildren, teenagers and business professionals.
Clearly, playing with a full deck of cards, South China Development (HK) Ltd appears to have plenty of winning deals ahead.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
South China Development (HK) Ltd
Rms 1-2, 24/F,