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Brilliant Buys At Best Bazaar(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 07,2007)

Hong Kong Houseware Fair

 

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Buyers seeking new and interesting products were spoilt for choice at one of the world's leading trade shows for household products

There were plenty of innovative items on offer at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre, which was straining at the seams during this year's Hong Kong Houseware Fair.

The event, which ran from April 21-24, boasted an enormous array of interesting and attractive household products such as the lifelike wildlife figurines from Tang's Wildlife Design Ltd.

Founded in 1994 by master carver and designer Simon Tang, who studied at the prestigious Beijing Academy of Fine Arts, the polyresin figurines are hand-painted by 200 artists at the China-based company's factory.

"We have more than 1,000 models," revealed marketing manager Thomas Lam. "Up until five years ago, we focused on wildlife from North America but today we do more from Russia such as bears and European songbirds."

Tang's introduced a new line of bronze-style polyresin wildlife sculptures painted with metallic paint at the fair, and is also focusing on home accents, such as coat racks and welcome signs combined with a wildlife sculpture.

"Birds of prey, waterfowl, songbirds, deer and animals such as wolves, elephants and goats are among our most popular collections," Lam explained.

FOB Shenzhen prices range from as little as US$1 per piece for a small songbird to US$100 for a nearly life-sized bald eagle, each completed by a single artist in order to provide the realistic details and natural poses that are the firm's hallmarks.

"Many people are speechless when they see our products because the sculptures are so natural," Lam claimed, noting that Tang's traditional North American and European customers are being augmented by Russian, South American and Middle Eastern buyers.

Tang's only exhibits at the Hong Kong Houseware Fair and the International Toys, Gifts and Homewares Fair in Macau in October. "We come to the shows to get new customers and obtain virtually all of our business from these two fairs," Lam said.

Also focusing on increasingly popular polyresin sculptures is Hong Kong-based Smartrend Ltd, which specialises in Asian, African, ancient Egyptian, primitive and modern designs and also makes polyresin photo frames, boxes, clocks and mirrors.

"Buddha figurines and Chinese-style lamps are our best-selling items," said manageress Nice Ma, adding that many pieces were inspired by artifacts in museums and art galleries.

The three-year-old firm debuted a new collection featuring mosaics of decorative boxes, lamps, plates and animal figures made of cow bone and horn, rattan, bamboo and stone.

"Our buyers mainly come from Europe and the UK and they always tell us our finishing is nice and the quality of our products is good," claimed Ma. "This is our first time at the Hong Kong fair and it gives us a chance to show our products to different customers in different countries."

Another company that launched a new collection was Han Ko Worldwide Co Ltd, which was founded by two Taiwanese architects in 1999 and has become known for its decorative glassware items such as vases, ashtrays, photo frames, tumblers, mirrors and clocks.

Assistant manager Iris Yang said a new collection of vases and bathroom accessories made of natural dolomite was an exciting addition at the Taiwan-based company.

"We hope that the dolomite line will account for 50% of sales within a year, and we may expand the dolomite collection to tableware if sales go well," she confided.

Colourful silk-screen designs, decals or silver foil are added to the glassware and dolomite for a contemporary or classic look, though the dolomite is also offered in its natural white colour or any colour a customer specifies.

Yang said seasonal items such as Christmas plates were becoming more popular, but glass plates remained the most sought-after items with buyers from the US, the UK, Spain, Australia and Europe. "Some 70% of our orders come from the Hong Kong Houseware Fair," said Yang, who added that this was Han Ko's second time in the Hall of Elegance.

European, US and Indian buyers also flocked to Shenzhen Foreign Trade Xingye Trading Co, which manufactures porcelain and ceramic teapot sets, mugs, plates and gift plate sets.

One of its newest concepts is a teapot-for-one set featuring colourful decal patterns and comprising a teapot, cup and saucer stacked into a single space-saving unit. "They're very popular with children and adults," claimed export manager Ann Lee, who added that she didn't see anything replacing porcelain and ceramics in the near future.

A five-time Hong Kong Houseware Fair attendee, Shenzhen Foreign Trade Xingye also exhibits at the China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) in Guangzhou, China. "We might start talking to a buyer at the Hong Kong fair and meet them again at the Canton Fair, so that gives us two chances to get an order," Lee explained.

Bone china, porcelain and ceramic products feature prominently in the portfolio of Hong Kong-based Gerber Far East 1959 Ltd, which also designs, manufactures, packages, markets and distributes a wide range of glassware, giftware and home textile products.

Director of marketing Frank Fu said new industry trends include products that feature different materials in combination, such as porcelain and stainless steel, wood and glass and glass and porcelain. "We're doing stainless steel and porcelain and also looking at other alternatives," he added.

Fu revealed that the company has been designated an official retailer for all gift categories at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. "In addition to our OEM/ODM business, we also hold licences for four brands - Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, Fiorucci and Lamborghini," he added.

Gerber Far East's buyers come from "all over the world", but especially Australia, the US and Europe. "The future for our industry is good because we produce in China, where the product level is high and the retail market is growing as people there want branded items," Fu observed.

He noted that the company had been coming to the Hong Kong Houseware Fair for 10 years. "We also exhibit at Ambiente in Germany, the New York International Gift Fair and the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, but the Hong Kong fair is better," he maintained. "China is the world's factory so buyers naturally want to come to Hong Kong to take a look - about 60% of our orders for the year come from this show."

The Hong Kong Houseware Fair clearly lived up to exhibitor expectations and is bound to do so again next year, when the next edition is staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from April 21-24, 2008.

TEXT BY ANDREA PAWLYNA

 

SUPERB SHOWCASE FOR SUPER SOURCING CENTRE

The opportunity to cut costs and source exciting and innovative lines keeps buyers returning to Asia's largest houseware fair

The tremendous sourcing potential of the Chinese mainland again proved irresistible to buyers attending the recent Hong Kong Houseware Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Chief among them was Inspirion GmbH project division manager Joachim Rengstorf, whose company trades promotional and retail items such as stainless steel vacuum flasks and cutlery and plastic household products.

"The Chinese mainland accounts for about 90% of our traded products," Rengstorf revealed, adding that the German firm also develops some products together with its suppliers. "The major advantage of the Chinese mainland is the lower price compared with other Asian countries and Europe."

The 10-time visitor viewed the Hong Kong Houseware Fair as a kind of shop window that allowed him to assess market trends in other countries, check prices and review supplier development.

He added that Inspirion's main market is Europe, although Eastern European areas such as Poland, the Ukraine and Russia are becoming increasingly important, he noted.

"The market is very price-sensitive, so we are trying to sell items that attract consumers and need to be replaced after a certain period," Rengstorf explained. "The key is to find the right mix between price, quality and design - I have seen some well-designed, good-quality products at reasonable prices."

Equally enthusiastic was Diffusion Stock Import Export Ltee president Jean Alart, whose Canadian company sources some 80% of its products from the mainland.

"We used to buy from Europe 30 or 40 years ago, but now prices are too high," he explained, adding that other supply sources include Indonesia and the Philippines.

Alart said Diffusion deals in houseware - everything for the home except furniture - and is always on the lookout for new and interesting products. "For instance, we have found a small lady-shaped jewellery hanger that stands about 12 inches tall," he revealed.

However, Alart was primarily looking for kitchenware, such as dishes, cooking dishes and cooking accessories.

"We have been at this fair many times to find new suppliers and new items," he admitted. "I have seen some interesting products, such as photo frames and lamps; and have made some deals already."

Four-time fair visitor and J & M Trading co-owner Jan Frederiks said 60% of the New Zealand giftware and ornament importer's products came from Asia - mainly Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, Vietnam - and 40% from Europe

"The Chinese mainland and Hong Kong have definite advantages as supply sources," Frederiks maintained. "There is easy access from New Zealand to Hong Kong, and the prices are very good compared to Europe."

The Hong Kong Houseware Fair met her buying requirements as there were "a lot of houseware products" that could be used with gifts or combined with giftware.

"We are looking for new products and we've found quite a few, such as a range of vases, porcelain ware and drinking glasses," Frederiks noted, adding that decorative lamps, glasses and gift boxes sell well in New Zealand. "The strengths of this fair are its easy access and good organisation, so we will be back."

Similarly committed to returning was Willem Moerhuis, proprietor of Direct Trading Int'l B.V. of the Netherlands, which imports promotional products and business gifts, including some houseware items.

"The Chinese mainland is our major supply source," Moerhuis confided, noting that products are produced there but a lot of manufacturers have offices in Hong Kong.

"That's the reason why I always come to Hong Kong - if I cannot find something in Hong Kong, I will not be able find it on the Chinese mainland."

He was making his 15th visit to the Hong Kong Houseware Fair to find new products and had found some "interesting" items such as spoon scales that he was confident would sell well in his biggest markets, namely Holland and Belgium.

"The Hong Kong Houseware Fair is important as I always find new things," Moerhuis concluded. "I find new developments and ideas at every show, so I am able to show people something new when I go back home."

GROWING BIGGER EVERY YEAR

More than 3,500 booths and a record 2,382 exhibitors highlighted the Hong Kong Houseware Fair staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from April 21-24, 2007.

The largest of its kind in Asia, the fair was organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), which hosted nearly 17,000 registered buyers and 76 buying missions from 45 countries and regions.

More than 1,900 companies and 3,500 buyers were invited, including international chain stores and leading distributors such as France's Christofle and Galeries Lafayette and Karstadt Quelle of Germany, while buying offices for B&Q, Carrefour, Home Depot and Wal-Mart also sent representatives.

One of the world's major marketplaces for home products, the Hong Kong Houseware Fair attracted exhibitors from 34 countries and regions, including group pavilions from Australia, the Chinese mainland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and the US.

The fair marked its 22nd edition with the introduction of two new theme zones - the Pet Supplies Zone targeted the increasing number of pet lovers in mature and developing markets alike while Posh Corner spotlighted the most exquisite home items.

The Hall of Elegance again offered top-brand household items and designer collections from 27 exhibitors, while Hong Kong houseware products reflected the Hong Kong - Where Design Works with products arranged in four groups: Casting a Spell, Home and Away, Realistic Energy and Opposites Attract.

A broad range of contemporary products and home items were on show, including artificial flowers, bathroom accessories, handicrafts, home decorations, household textiles, kitchenware and gadgets, lighting products, pet supplies and small electrical appliances.

The TDC also organised a series of informative seminars, with topics ranging from colour and product trends to SME branding, intellectual property rights issues on the Chinese mainland and risk management in the export business.

The Hong Kong Houseware Fair again proved a fitting tribute to the resilience of the Hong Kong household goods industry, which exported goods worth US$21.94bn in 2006.

The figure was boosted by encouraging results from emerging markets, with exports to Brazil, Chile and India growing by 24.4%, 26% and 43.2% respectively.

This year looks even stronger, with exports for the first two months of 2007 increasing by 19.7% over the same period last year and sales to France and the UK up 45.8% and 23.6% respectively.

 

OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK

Both exhibitors and buyers continue to be confident about prospects for houseware products in 2007, according to a survey undertaker at the Hong Kong Houseware Fair in April.

Conducted on behalf of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), the survey of 112 exhibitors and 200 buyers found:

  • more than 90% believe the houseware market will "stay positive" or "become even better" during the coming year
  • the majority of those who anticipate positive market growth in 2007 expect an increase of 6% or more
  • emerging markets such as the Chinese mainland, Russia, Central and Eastern Europe were predicted to be most prominent
  • home decoration products are expected to have the highest growth rate
  • some 66% of houseware buyers are currently sourcing from Hong Kong suppliers
  • fully 65% of buyers not currently sourcing from Hong Kong plan to do so in future
  • buyers perceive high quality, creativity, good design, competitive pricing and reliability as major characteristics of Hong Kong suppliers