28 Sept 2007
Charming Characters(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 10,2007)
Gifts & Stationery
|Apart from OEM, 2006-established JH Mfe Ltd has created various gift and stationery items around the images of a cute dog and cat|
Building an easily recognised brand name is one sure way to success, albeit a process that is both time consuming and expensive. Taking a novel approach to gaining recognition, 2006-established JH Mfe Ltd decided to create various gift items around the images of a cute, cartoon-style dog and cat.
"After in-depth market research, we believed it would be possible to find a niche market with goods that appealed to pre-teens," relates Merchandiser Freda Tsang. "The dog and cat theme emerged as the favourite among the design and management teams, and we were sure this cute theme would help sell a lot of goods, especially in Asia."
This has proved the case, and today JH Mfe offers a wide array of stationery products bearing the now-famous dog and cat theme. Items range from plastic memo holders to pencils and handy cases to USB desk lamps.
"We focus on youthful, colourful designs of relatively high quality for the price that are also full of bright, fashionable and trendy appeal," says Ms Tsang. "The youth market remains very hot as kids today seem to have plenty of spending money."
Despite strong sales in Thailand, however, the domestic Hong Kong market is proving a more difficult nut to crack. "Thailand has welcomed our stationery lines featuring the dog and cat characters, and we continue to sell large quantities there," remarks Ms Tsang. "People in Hong Kong seem undecided, though, and so we are looking at the possibility of a design makeover for them and for buyers in Europe."
Meanwhile, Japan has also proved a bitter-sweet experience. "Our dog and cat lines initially found favour in the Japanese youth market," says Ms Tsang. "However, after an initial spurt there was a bit of a lull. We eventually discovered that our lines were being sold as Japanese goods, which is not the case. "We have not been able to penetrate Japan with a second wave of ODM goods, and we seem to have lost our way a bit over there. But it's early days yet."
On the other hand, JH Mfe does have a very strong-selling line of OEM goods that are exported into Japan. "Oddly enough, 90% of our production is reaching Japan on that OEM basis," Ms Tsang smiles.
"The difference, we suppose, is in the design concept. The OEM buyer has first-hand knowledge of the market and we simply produce to order," she adds, noting that the firm's success with the Japanese OEM stems directly from its ability to provide high quality novelties at reasonable prices.
She is also quick to add that, while the dog and cat theme has brought sales and recognition, JH Mfe has solid experience in production. "Although we have operated under this name for just a couple of years, our management team has more than 10 years' history in manufacturing. It was that experience that gave us the confidence to launch new products with our own theme, but we have other top-quality artefacts and we do not rely solely on cute decorative effects." Among the other lines are popular items such as a miniature golf ball-style soap bottle.
Also popular are plastic coin banks bearing the friendly dog-and-cat images that come in the shape of tin cans and even in the form of cartons of cup noodles - with plenty of space for company logos or messages.
The dog and cat also make solo appearances as PVC computer mouse pads complete with jelly-filled handrests. Also popular is a cat-shaped, jelly-filled cool pad that can be placed in the freezer before use. "We sell a lot of pencil cases, too," says Ms Tsang. "All are ODM products."
JH Mfe has many designers on its books, and it gives them a lot of freedom to be as creative as they wish. "We also have our own design team, of course, but we find it is easier to come up with something really innovative by hiring a fresh mind," says Ms Tsang. "Quite often it is the freelance designer who comes up with the winning product."
Production takes place at JH Mfe's 500-worker plant in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland. Minimum order is 2,000 units for ODM and 3,000 for OEM. Delivery is 15-20 days after order confirmation.
For the future, Ms Tsang says JH Mfe will commence production of houseware products, including items for the bathroom. The dog and cat theme is expected to again play a part, but in a more mature presentation.
"We see the need for lots of novelty, even in kitchen goods, and of course the bathroom is ideal for colourful items," she explains. "We will keep to simple, high-quality plastic items that look good and feel good."
JH Mfe has lots of options at the OEM and ODM levels, and looks poised for further success ahead.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
JH Mfe Ltd