16 Nov 2004
Focus On Design(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 01,2005)
Homeasy Enterprise Ltd
Homeasy Enterprise Ltd, a trading company for medium- to high-end kitchenware, puts great emphasis on developing in-house designs. To this end, the company set up an R&D department within its Hong Kong headquarters in 2003.
"When we showcased our in-house designs for the first time at the Hong Kong Gifts & Houseware Fair in April, 2004, we were very happy to see encouraging responses from our customers. We find it is well worthwhile investing heavily in R&D because in-house designs not only add value to our products but give us a competitive edge over our rivals," says senior marketing manager Gary Ko.
Homeasy has two product designers providing initial drawings. These sketches are then turned into engineering drawings by two teams in the firm's two branch offices in Shanghai and Dongguan on the Chinese mainland.
"We have also invested in 3D sampling machines that enable us to provide hand-made samples to our customers so they can view and feel the products prior to actual tooling development," Ko adds.
The Hong Kong head office concentrates on marketing, R&D and coordination. "We do not have our own production facilities but we do have a strong sourcing network thanks to our two mainland offices. Staff there are also responsible for quality inspection," Ko says.
A professional quality assurance team monitors every stage of the manufacturing process. "Our QC procedures include on-site inspection of in-line production items and pre-shipment final inspection," he explains. "We are very thorough."
Homeasy started business in 1998, with three staff members managing its operations. After six years of steady development, the company now employs about 50 people and owns two spacious showrooms in Hong Kong and Shanghai. It offers a diverse range of kitchenware including flatware, kitchen knives, cookware, bakeware, and barbecue tools and accessories.
Presently, Europe accounts for 60% of exports and the US takes up the rest. "In 2003, to build up the image of our Homeasy brand and to better serve the needs of our European customers, we set up representative offices in Germany and the UK," Ko says.
"About two years ago, we started to develop planogram kitchenware for the convenience of some of our retail customers. One of the most popular series was a complete set of kitchenware made of silicon, which is available in assorted colours."
Barbecue tool sets form the company's latest in-house designs, and these are just starting to hit the market. "Our market intelligence revealed that there is a niche market for barbecue tool sets, especially in Europe and the US where people can afford good designs," Ko says.
"Our new sets are not just beautifully designed but also user-friendly and functional. For example, one of our patented designs comes with a special handle that is not just for decoration but also easy to hold. In addition, they all come in nice packaging."
Homeasy is one of three Hong Kong companies certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for responsible forestry management. Ko says Homeasy is the only trading company in the group as the other two are manufacturers.
"With more consumers displaying a preference for environmentally friendly products, FSC certification helps us create a valuable marketing approach for our kitchenware items with wood handles. We can put the FSC trademark onto our packaging and promotional materials," says Ko.
One of the firm's biggest single orders called for 36,000, 12-piece chocolate fondue sets that were sold to a famous hypermarket chain in the US. "The order went through in September, for Christmas business," Ko says. "We did not strictly follow the design idea provided by the client and, instead, added our own input to make the end product highly attractive and functional."
Homeasy does not like to work on open items, Ko emphasises. "With our specialist knowledge in kitchenware and production, we can provide professional advice to customers on design and technical matters," he assures.
Ko firmly believes that reliable quality, good in-house designs, reasonable pricing and on-time delivery are the ingredients for the company's success. "With all these elements, we are able to build up long-term relationships with our existing customers while attracting new ones," he says.
WRITTEN BY MINDY HO
Homeasy Enterprise Ltd