13 Oct 2004
Hong Kong Gifts, Premiums and Stationery
Strings Of Success
Senior Plastic Products Ltd ensures that its products catch the eye
If you've forgotten the delights of childhood - especially the joy of receiving gifts - a glance around the Lai Chi Kok showroom of Senior Plastic Products Ltd will bring memories flooding back.
From ceiling to floor, every inch is covered by an amazing variety of items for children: puzzles, board games, blackboard sets, stencils for boys and girls, embossing kits, tracing sets of every well-known insect and animal, large boxed playsets with up to 180 individual items, kids' rings, stamp sets, designer playsets, trendy pencil sharpeners, every imaginable type of reflector for bicycles, backpacks and other products.
There are also reflecting belts and wrist straps for children to immediately stand out in an approaching vehicle's headlights.
Nearly every item is not simply a toy, but also a useful aid to stimulating young minds and encouraging the learning process. The examples cited above provide a "taste" of what the company produces.
What is equally impressive is the colourful packaging of all the items. All feature vivid colour schemes that practically invite a child to ask his parents to buy that particular item.
"The items are made in our factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland - but the boxes they go in, from the design of the packaging to the printing and production, are all done in Hong Kong," says managing director Simon Leung. "We are very particular about the packaging. It must be eye-catching and strike the viewer in an instant - not just the child who would like it but the parent who must pay for it.
"We spend a lot of time perfecting these designs because they must immediately give a favourable impression. It has become a two-way street with us over the years, good quality products packaged and boxed for sale in such a way that the would-be buyer almost automatically reaches out for these."
Naturally, there are some out-of-the-ordinary products like Halloween specials; all sorts of ghostly inspirations topped by a wind-up little ghost that glows green in the dark as it travels along its spooky way.
The company was started 20 years ago in Hong Kong with about 50 employees, producing back-to-school stationery items for kids: pencils, pencil cases, rulers, scissors and paper clips. Such simple items found a ready market, and soon the company was building a reputation.
As with nearly every Hong Kong manufacturer, it was attracted to the mainland's cheaper labour and land costs and set up a factory of about 4,000 square metres in Dongguan with 200 workers. Today, its best products are self-inking stamps, stencils and reflectors.
The company has twice landed very substantial orders with two of the biggest chains in the US, Wal-Mart and Target, mainly for stamp sets and stencil playsets, Leung says.
Occasionally, it will get a rush order that has to be airfreighted to the buyer - as has happened with a customer in France - but generally it ships by container.
Its reflectors have done very well in Germany, with top car-maker Mercedes-Benz and lower-key Volkswagen placing big orders, Leung claims. Reflectors for backpacks, youth summer courses and even as promotional items for elections are also popular in Germany.
Europe and the US each comprise about 30% of the company's market. Japan accounts for 20%, and the balance goes to the Middle East and other destinations.
By painstaking observation of his niche market and sensible follow-up action, Leung has gradually built a viable business. He is responsible for envisioning most of the novelty items.
Leung also works hard to thwart copycats who piggyback on his research and under-cut his prices with low-quality products. "Competition is very strong," he says. "Some manufacturers have no scruples about copying everything from our products to our labelling. However, we are able to stand out thanks to our product quality and level of service."
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Senior Plastic Products Ltd
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