13 Oct 2004
Hong Kong Gifts, Premiums and Stationery
Strings Of Success
Supreme Label Industrial Ltd
As lanyards have become multifunctional, Supreme Label Industrial Ltd has come up with designs that can hold anything from identity cards to water bottles and more
The walls of Danny Wong's office are festooned with thousands of lanyards, literally of every stripe and colour, for various clients. Some names stand out from the crowd: Benetton, Heineken, Vodafone, Lipton's Iced Tea, Volvo, Nokia, Spiderman, Pepsi, Disneyland Paris, 7Up, BMW, Universal Studios. It's almost like taking a look at some of the top global brand names.
"Please take a seat," says Wong, manager of Supreme Label Industrial Ltd. But only one chair is vacant. The rest are heaped with coils of still more lanyards, including such "specials" for Halloween night as a gravedigger with skull and crossbones and another that's just one grinning skull after another.
"We get some weird orders," he explains. "Ninety percent of our lanyards go overseas. It's amazing how lanyards have become a growth industry for some places in Europe, especially Austria and Bavaria. They love them there, especially the ski resorts and skiers. They're also big in the US, where it's a sort of status thing."
You'd be wrong if you imagined that a lanyard around the neck served just one purpose: to display an identity card. "That was the original idea but now lanyards have become much more sophisticated," says Wong as he plucks out a sample and points to various attachments.
One is to hold a mobile phone, he explains, adding: "Why have two loops around your neck when one will do?" Another attachment is a firm black rubber ring. "It holds your water bottle when you go on a hike - you clip the top of the water bottle into it."
Next, there's a little pull-wheel spool with a metal clip attached. "The wearer's ID is attached to the clip and, as he approaches security check-in, he pulls it down via the thread in the pull-wheel, checks it through, then lets it go. Zip, it flies back into place again, and the bearer's on his way. Even the pull-wheel carries a logo." And the little holder? "To hold a pen."
Wong surveys his regiments of lanyards and remarks, "Yes, lanyards have gone multifunctional - there's even a breakaway safety buckle where the lanyard touches the back of the wearer's neck. Say a criminal grabs the wearer by his lanyard, a strong tug will snap the link and leave the wearer free to fight off his attacker."
He shows another sample. "It's elastic - it expands. Another of our new products."
The company even produces limited edition lanyards, each with its own number in the pecking order. "They're one-offs and one day they'll be collectors' items," he believes.
When the company was launched in 1992, it began from a 2,000-square-metre factory on the Chinese mainland in Shun Tak, north of Macau, with a workforce of 500.
Initially, it concentrated on accessories. When lanyards became popular, it expanded aggressively into this line, which has now become its top product.
Its two biggest orders were 300,000 lanyards apiece for the United States Postal Service and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
The company has other strings to its bow: woven labels, badges made from PVC, rubber and embroidery, belts, leather patches for jeans, plus carabiners (a popular type of key holder which allow the keys to dangle handily in a neat bunch from the wearer's belt).
"While we're waiting for orders we just can't leave the workforce and machines idle," Wong explains. "So they're multifunctional, too. If we're not filling orders for lanyards, we're working on these various accessories. It's a useful back-up."
From another niche in his office Wong produces a series of basketball players' uniform labels. One stands out: Yao. It's the name tag of the Chinese mainland-born player, Yao Ming, who has established himself on the US basketball scene, and became a tireless pacesetter and goal scorer for the mainland team at the Athens Olympics.
"Four years ago we received ISO 9002 certification," Wong enthuses. "We supply woven name labels, numbers, sashes and so forth for more than 100 teams in the US - Blazers, Lakers, Rockets, all the big teams. All they have to do is sew them on to the uniforms. Also, we make accessories for Reebok and Nike."
All these are ample proof of the company's growing list of well-known clients. "Our business is quite solid thanks to customer loyalty," he adds.
Though the company faces a challenge from the growing number of competitors who have homed in on the lanyard market, churning out cheap, low-grade products that are harming the industry overall, Wong is confident that the distinct quality of Supreme Label's products will continue to mark it apart from the competition.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Supreme Label Industrial Ltd
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