4 April 2007
Colourful Options(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2007)
Woo Fung Metal Mfy
|Woo Fung Metal Mfy is a well-known producer of silver-plated metal giftware|
"We are a family-business and operate very much in the Hong Kong tradition," says marketing manager Kenneth Wong. "Indeed, we are still in our original location, although the Hong Kong office and showroom have been totally refurbished, while our production facilities were relocated to Dongguan on the Chinese mainland in 1990."
As if to emphasise its past strengths, the firm's showroom displays a selection of once-best sellers, comprising highly ornate silverware, intricate vases with curlicue necks, and silvered trays with teapots that conjure up images of valets and butlers.
"Up until about five years ago, we produced only in silver plate," says Wong. "Then, following some in-depth market research, we started to add colour. The market welcomed this innovation, and coloured silver-plated items now account for more than 80% of our business."
While traditional, silver plate photo frames are still popular the world over, Wong says that the market for colour frames is growing fast. "We can easily sell frames in a pewter-look or in interesting matt or antique-look finishes, and in more unusual shapes as well," he declares.
Apart from giftware, there are also upmarket premium items made for special occasions. For example, The Phantom of the Opera tin box with ornate decorations sells very well, as does a silver plate "Titanic" heart box. Both of these containers comfortably and elegantly house jewellery or watches. "We sell them mostly to the UK, the US and Australia," says Wong.
"The actual range of giftware has not changed all that much over the years, but there is greater demand for more ornamentation, usually achieved through die-cast, polishing and electroplating procedures," he adds.
The actual number of items in the firm's inventory reaches into the thousands, falling into well-defined categories including women's products, jewellery boxes, baby products, baby gift sets, photo frames, tableware, wine and cigar products and candleholders.
Typical among the best-selling range of baby products is the Birth Certificate Holder with stand, in silver-plated zinc alloy that measures 4.5x 6.5x12 inches, and comes packaged in an elegant case and set on a cushion. A clever choice of light blues and pinks brings in unisex universality, making the item suitable for either boys or girls.
The silver-plated zinc alloy Block Bank that serves as a savings bank with a top slot for inserting coins measures 3x3x3 inches. Another variation comes with a photo frame. The brass Baby Cup that comes with a bear pattern has a plastic, non-spill mouthpiece and measures 4.25x3x2.75 inches.
There is still market interest in the firm's well-established silver-plated zinc alloy Baby Tooth Box that measures 1.5x1.5x0.825 inches. Meanwhile, a newer favourite is the zinc alloy First Video Box that measures 8.25x5x1.75 inches.
Some items combine into all-in-one baby sets that might include, for example, a finely-patterned photo frame, a first baby tooth box and a first baby curls box - all silver-plated and attractively packaged.
"We commonly use zinc alloy or steel for frames, which are then silver-plated," says Wong, revealing that as a metalwork specialist the firm prefers to outsource any requirements for plastic.
Production takes place at the firm's 100,000-square-foot, ISO 9002-certified, 300-worker factory in Dongguan.
"The technical and production teams employ systematic quality control procedures at every stage," says Wong. "The factory has all the latest equipment for production, and is vertically integrated for efficient handling of clients' orders."
While the company's exports go worldwide, major markets are the US, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Minimum order is 500 units per item and delivery is 30-40 days after order confirmation. "It takes about one to two weeks to arrange samples," Wong advises.
"We stay alive in this market," he adds, "by producing a type of product that firms with less experience are unable to bring to market. On the Chinese mainland for instance, it is difficult to locate metal-working companies offering the colour mixes we do."
Woo Fung Metal Mfy certainly seems to have the range, the polish and the finish to satisfy a wide variety of market demands.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
Woo Fung Metal Mfy