4 April 2007
Fresh Favourites(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2007)
|A key new line from Guangzhou Premier Plus Stationery Ltd of the Chinese mainland is aimed at kids three years and up, and offers stationery items such as glue, sticky tape and chalk|
This observation was expounded by many buyers, hoping to see producers on the Chinese mainland living up to a growing reputation for just such approaches. It was also clear that exhibitors felt that in being at the fair in Hong Kong they were in the right place at the right time to meet international buyers and display their wares.
One mainland company fully aware of the benefits and business to be won is Valiant Eagle Industrial Co Ltd, which produces more than 100 different items of stationery for the medium- to high-end market. The firm also caters to OEM orders at its Shenzhen factory on the southern mainland.
The 13-year-old company's biggest-selling products are sticky notes and memo cubes in various colours and sizes. "Our transparent, plastic sticky notes are very popular as they can be written on, reused, and last much longer than their paper counterparts," explained manager Andy Zhou. "The majority of our products are for the office, with 20% for the children's market."
A popular new item is the 3-in-1 multipurpose ring-bound notebook, combining a notebook, a name-card holder and coloured sticky notes. The item sells for US$0.70 per piece, FOB the mainland, for minimum orders of 1,000 pieces per delivered 15-20 days after confirmation. "This item can also include a photo album on request, and the price rises to US$1 per piece for the 4-in-1 option," Zhou said.
Believing that its range meets current requirements and trends is Guangzhou Premier Plus Stationery Ltd, which produces more than 200 items of stationery for the school and office markets.
A key new line is the firm's Fun Activity range for kids three years and up that was introduced in 2006, according to manager Sandy Shen. "Currently, we have some 26 items in this medium- to high-end market range, including glue, glitter, pens, crayons, scissors, brushes, face-painting sets, chunky markers and chalks."
This year, she added, the company will increase the range to more than 30 items by adding an apron, jumbo markers, foam stickers, play mat and glitter glue.
"We are very strong on packaging and presenting new products," Shen claimed. "Our packaging is designed to be highly attractive to children so they will ask their mothers for it when they see it in stores."
FOB mainland product prices range from "a few cents" to US$8 for a jumbo pack of 100 coloured pens - some scented - for minimum order values of US$3,000 of mixed items delivered within 45 days of confirmation from its factory in Shantou.
The trend for licensed TV and movie characters has made 10-year-old Korean company Daic Co a real favourite with kids, thanks to Hello Kitty and Thomas & Friends licences, as well as its cute own-brand Pin Bear.
"We also hold the licence for the Japanese TV animation character, Ukeando, and 15% of our exports are OEM," explained business control department vice-chief Kim Jong Dae.
He added that Daic manufactures more than 70 highly colourful, innovative products, from rulers to plastic pencil cases, whiteboards, dispensers and art supplies, at its factory in Korea.
Currently, Daic's most popular items are plastic pencil cases - one model includes a spring-based basketball game and another incorporates a small pull-out electronic video game as well as whiteboard. "The game pencil case has the option of either football or baseball," added Kim, who said the company's products are aimed at children 6-12 years old.
Other popular items are the melody pencil cases, which incorporate either a small harmonica or organ keyboard, and the creative beads pencil case, which contains vanity mirror and beads and findings to make an attractive necklace. "One of our latest products is the water pail and palette case for mixing children's paints," Kim added.
FOB Korea unit prices range from US$0.12 for a ruler to US$8.13 for the melody organ pencil case, for minimum orders of 5,000 pieces, depending on the model. Daic's products can feature any of the company's licensed or own characters or OEM designs.
Meanwhile, catering to OEM orders for the traditional paper stationery market is three-year-old Gain Union Co Ltd of Bangkok. The firm supplies a wide range of notebooks, paper files and refill paper. "Our most popular products are stitched-bound and spiral-bound composition books," said managing director Gunsinee Kuhataparak.
For the last two years, holographic material for notebook covers has been popular, she said, noting that in 2006 velvet and PP plastic were in demand. "Stitched products are for the back-to-school market, while spiral notebooks are year-round sellers," she explained.
Some 80% of Gain Union's business is the school market and about 20% is in the office sector. Unit prices range from US$0.30 for a spiral notebook to US$0.60 for filler paper for a minimum order value of US$5,000 of mixed items to be delivered 60 days after confirmation.
On the local scene, Hong Kong firm PromoClip Asia Ltd produces a useful and ingenious paper clip that, says owner and managing director Renm Theil, was brought to Asia and the Middle East by Promoclip International of the Netherlands.
"The paper clip is the ideal corporate branding tool," he enthused. "Made of memory stainless steel, it can be used over and over again without losing its shape or spring."
The flag-shaped paper clip is made of a stainless steel blend from Germany and Korea, and provides an ideal surface for a company, product or event logo. "The small Promoclip can hold up to 18 pages, and the medium/large Collect clip up to 40 pages, which is ideal for corporate mailings."
The company also offers a larger, laser-engraved version for use as a money clip, which makes an ideal premium item. "The paper clip blanks are manufactured in the Netherlands, but six months ago we started manufacturing on the mainland," he said.
Logo printing for Asia and the Middle East is done on the mainland, where logos are silicone-pad stamped and covered with UV varnish. "This makes them virtually impossible to remove," claimed Theil.
The small clip costs US$0.25 each and the medium/large US$0.40 each for average minimum orders of 2,500 and 1,000 pieces respectively, including printing but not film set-up costs, delivered in 3-4 weeks depending on location and printing requirements. Meanwhile, the money clip is US$1.75 per piece, including engraving, for a minimum order of 500 pieces,
Another local supplier, ColArt Hong Kong Ltd, provides purchasing and sourcing facilities to art supplies buyers in the Asia-Pacific region. The firm is wholly owned by the UK-headquartered ColArt Group, which has a huge 275 years' experience in manufacturing and supplying artists' colours and accessories.
The company produces acrylic colours, watercolours, children's colours, canvasses and brushes and has a brush and colour factory in Tianjin and a canvas factory in Ningbo on the mainland.
"ColArt produces two lines, one for kids and one for adults," said project development manager Winnie Fong. "Our most popular kids' products are our Redimix water-based poster colours, which we produce in 27 colours in 250ml, 500ml, and 1 litre sizes."
Other popular items are glitter paints, available in 13 colours, and Tempera paint blocks. "Our kid's short handle, easy-hold, hexagonal grip brush is also in demand and is available in hog and synthetic hair," she said.
Fong revealed that the most popular items for adults are acrylic paints for the arts and crafts market, which can be used on metal, fabric or wood. "These are available in 36 colours in 12ml-400ml for the artist market, 56 colours in 18ml-75ml for hobbyists, and 24 colours in 75ml-500ml for the high-volume studio type."
The company also produces wet and dry water colours - tubes of 24 colours for wet and 20 colours in dry tablet form - as well as canvasses, easels and adult brushes in pony, hog and synthetic hair. "Our new brushes have a silicone coating on the handle for better grip," added Fong.
She noted a growing trend for mixed items. "Kids nowadays want mixed sets, for example glitter paints with crayons and markers, and adults also want a packaging mix - for example, a do-it-yourself set with paints and printed canvas."
Product prices vary according to item, but a child's set of 10, 18ml glitter tubes is US$2 per set, and an adult's set of 12, 12ml acrylic paints is US$2.10 per set for an average minimum order or 6,000 pieces per item, delivered approximately 60-90 days after confirmation.
With such an expansive range on offer, it is little wonder that buyers were delighted to cram the halls and jam the booths. As one busy buyer remarked, "This is sourcing at its best."
Clearly, wherever the market, stationery manufacturers are working hard to add creativity and excitement to a traditional industry that must combine freshness with affordability to attract buyers worldwide, and most are doing it through Hong Kong.
TEXT BY SANDRA JENNER
Guangzhou Premier Plus Stationery Ltd
The Hub, Unit 1802, North Tower
No. 1068 Xing Gang East Rd
Guangzhou, China 510335