5 Dec 2008
Blooming Business(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 12,2008)
The artificial plants industry has blossomed from the ubiquitous plastic variety to spectacular and realistic blooms and greens made from a variety of materials.
While some firms like to produce the most eye-catching flowers, Hon Lam Silk Flowers Mfy Ltd, despite its title, has concentrated on less showy but more soothing greens. "My father founded the business in 1979," relates General Manager Roger Li.
"While the artificial flower business was well established at that time, we were innovative from the beginning and employed new technology to pioneer polyester greenery," Mr Li says. "Our first products comprised various plants made from printed polyester fabrics. We were probably among the first to produce in polyester."
Those early products went to buyers in the US. "From 1980 on we began to grow business in the US," says Mr Li. "About 65%-70% of our greenery still goes to that market, while the remainder mostly goes to Europe."
Outdoor floral fixtures sell well in the US. "Our trees and plants look great indoors or outdoors, and they are very popular with home owners," Mr Li claims, adding nevertheless that shopping malls and airports form the largest outlets. "Our palm trees, for example, are supplied worldwide and are seen in many public areas, fair venues, convention centres, hotel lobbies and so on."
The firm's list of customers includes retailers, importers and wholesalers. "Some stage their own shows, and we support them with a comprehensive marketing effort that includes magazine advertising, we use the Web and distribute an annual catalogue," he says.
"We have a very good customer base, one that has been laid down over the years, and we are continually expanding our database in terms of countries supplied."
While not as important as the US, European demand continues to grow, he adds. "In addition, we are doing better in emerging markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia."
The firm is totally committed to R&D. "Our product lines lead the field and differentiate us from the rest," Mr Li insists. "This is because we have a great design team that is able to blend its imaginative skill with that of nature to the greatest effect."
Hon Lam Silk Flowers spends something like HK$10m a year on R&D for new products, says Mr Li. "We also supply the plastic pots and containers, all of which have to be moulded, and so there is a large investment in product development."
For the future, Hon Lam Silk Flowers will increase its range of topiary animal shapes, and a new product is a picture frame series with plant forms in arrangements appearing as 3D wall hangings.
Interestingly, the firm has reverted to using a low-density PE raw material. "The technology has changed, and now it's cheaper to produce in plastic again," says Mr Li. "Thanks to our upmarket plastic-injection machinery, we can be more competitive while producing improved textures and appearances."
This hands-on approach to reproducing the blessings of nature is sure to win friends for Hon Lam Silk Flowers for a long time to come.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON