28 Aug 2007
Design Delight(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 09,2007)
|Art's Modern Stationery Mfg Ltd is a well-known manufacturer of stationery, household and gift items, photo frames and CD holders|
Hong Kong firms have a way of surviving the ups and downs of specific industry segments, and somehow coming out bigger and better. This is certainly true of 1986-established Art's Modern Stationery Mfg Ltd.
Formerly known as Art's Stationery Mfy Ltd, the firm is today a well-known manufacturer of stationery items and office supplies. Its highly functional household and gift items, including executive desk sets, photo frames and CD holders, are exported to some 20 countries.
"By 1990, we were already a leading manufacturer of traditional stationery, producing back-to-school items, staplers, hole punches and so on," declares marketing manager Sherry To. "But we faced tough competition from factories on the Chinese mainland. As we simply could not compete at the low-end, management decided to change and diversify the lines of production."
Accordingly, the firm developed a vastly expanded range of desktop accessories. "We realised that more computer-related items were coming onto the market, and with that 'heads up' we began to focus on accessories that reflected the change in demand," To relates.
First results were good. "The change worked and soon led to healthy sales," she says. "The product range was now without boundaries, and we started to add different functions and decorative effects. We also paid special heed to producing multifunction items."
Some of the products were quite new to Art's Modern, such as its range of household products. Various racks also became something of a speciality, with CD racks proving especially strong sellers. Vases also featured, often coming complete with tall and elegant wooden stands.
The creativity that went into design also spilled over onto the company's bread-and-butter stationery lines, which began to benefit from the makeover in the form of new products and ideas.
"Today," says To, "we mostly deal with traders, importers and distributors from Europe and the Middle East. We offer premiums and desk sets, desktop accessories, household products, traditional stationery items and, most recently, dark wood premiums and desk sets."
She explains that in recent years, demand has turned from natural-coloured wood products to those with various coloured finishes, among which, the darker-coloured items are selling best.
"We use 3-4 types of Chinese soft wood for our wooden lines. Among the dark wood desktop accessories are some very nicely finished goods that are simple and elegant and look perfectly at home in the office on an executive desk. Plus, we offer a touch of humour," says To, referring to a rocking chair-like holder for a mobile phone.
The smart, multifunctional desk sets start with a basic trio of stapler, hole punch and tape dispenser, and builds to a set of 15 items including a staple-remover and tablecloth weights.
Punched metal accessories, including paper holders and penholders, have also proved popular, especially when combined with wood. "While the dark red wood items always sell well, there is healthy demand for darker hues with silvered ends or holding parts," To says.
These accessories include a flower vase, a letter holder, a tray set, a business card rack, a tape dispenser and even a photo frame where the pictures revolve inside their smart dark wood frame.
About 90% of sales come from buyers in Europe and the Middle East. "We usually produce new items in different ranges with variations just to test the market," says To. "The Middle East pays a bit less, while Europe pays more. Things tend to even out."
The minimum order value is US$5,000 per shipment, of assorted items, for delivery 40 days after order confirmation. Production takes place at an 18,000-square-metre, 300-400 worker plant in Foshan, Guangdong Province, on the mainland.
To cope with increased demand, Art's Modern invested in new machinery. "Labour shortages forced us to take a hard look at the production and assembly side of our business, and introduce more automation while retaining skilled workers," To relates. "Changing the worker-to-machine ratio retains the value of their experience while increasing productivity and ensuring the quality is consistent."
The company also designs packaging in-house. "Clear plastic packaging is used when we do ODM," To adds. "Our lines are very good-looking and almost sell themselves. However, if customers request us to produce promotional packaging then we can supply them with smart, printed gift boxes."
Looking ahead, To says she believes Art's Modern will continue to successfully develop "all-in-one" desktop items and household products, since the "Life-Quality" concept is driving consumers to more "high-value" purchases.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
Art's Modern Stationery Mfg Ltd