11 March 2009
Forever Green(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 03,2009)
Artificial Flowers & Plants
A long-established integral component of festive and interior decorations, artificial flowers and plants have stood the test of time by offering an easy-care option to brighten homes and offices, as well as a highly affordable alternative for cost-conscious consumers in these challenging times.
Among the world's most prolific exporters of imitation flora, Hong Kong has no shortage of experienced manufacturers catering to different market demands for lifelike interpretations of hundreds of botanical species.
A prime example is Hing Wai Co Ltd, which manufactures a full range of artificial flowers, plants, fruit and foliage in various forms including sprays, picks, bushes, trees, garlands, wreaths and pots.
"Our most popular products are flower bushes and stems," says Manager Charles Tam, adding that mixed bushes are particularly in demand. "Our customers like to select a full range of flowers such as roses, hydrangeas, gladioli and delphiniums."
Hing Wai's flower bushes range from small to large, with the most popular size comprising 24 and 36 stems. The company also produces pots and vases in ceramic, fine porcelain and fibreglass, as well as baskets for gifts and home decoration.
Working primarily on OEM terms, Hing Wai exports worldwide to buyers ranging from small family-owned businesses to large retail stores.
"We cater for the medium-to-high sector of the market, working closely with customers to tailor designs and flower combinations to their specific requirements," explains Mr Tam.
Another veteran OEM is Kan Shun Industrial Co Ltd, which offers more than 1,000 items including artificial flowers, plants, fruit and vegetables.
"About 70% of our business is ready-made items in baskets or pots and 20%-30% is stem flowers," advises Director C. K. Lam, adding that the most popular sizes for ready-made items are 8-10 inches in height. "Black pots are very popular as well as ceramic, glass, and glass with acrylic water."
He notes that the water lily, magnolia, gerbera and more exotic varieties such as orchids and aloe retained their popularity in 2008.
"This industry changes relatively little in terms of species varieties and colours, with simple, natural-looking products in most demand," observes Mr Lam. "A big range of flora always proves popular - the rose, sunflower and magnolia are examples of perennial favourites."
The company's products go for U$2-20 per piece FOB China. "The higher-end price would be for a 16-inch-tall vase with a large flower arrangement," Mr Lam explains.
Kan Shun also provides decorations for major festive occasions including Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.
Europe is the company's largest market, accounting for 80% of exports, with the UK its biggest outlet there. "The US takes 20% of our production, and other markets include South America and Japan," says Mr Lam, adding that the firm's clientele includes chain stores and mail order houses.
Also offering a choice of more than 1,000 designs, Nice Industrial Co Ltd concentrates half of its business on plastic plants and greenery, although it also supplies fabric alternatives.
"We offer about 10-20 new items every month, such as grass, bushes and trees," says Manager Jessica Lee. "Our most popular products are 12-24-inch plastic grasses and soft-touch greenery including bushes. Ivy is one of the favourite choices.
"We do in fact provide a full range of products, including stems and flower bushes, wreaths, garlands and festive decorations, and pre-made and loose items - as customers buy in container loads and hence require a wide selection of items," she adds.
Nice Industrial's pre-made items usually feature 3-4 varieties in plastic or paper pots. "Mixed grasses are particularly popular items in this category," Ms Lee observes.
Colours reflect natural hues, with green the most popular shade for all seasons. "However, the tones of green change each season with yellow or darker green predominating to match the trends in home decoration," she remarks.
"Product prices depend on design, material used and any special requirements or finishes."
The past few years have seen the company move away from its focus on the US to diversify into a wider range of markets that covers North America, Europe and East Asia, including Japan.
Buyers worldwide seeking to brighten their orders books can rely on Hong Kong manufacturers for a wide selection of artificial flowers and plants that, with the use of subtle, natural colours and imaginative finishes, provide a lasting and affordable alternative to the real thing.
Text by Sandra Jenner