31 March 2004
Hong Kong Household
Vol. 2, 2004
Bunhoi Group is a long-time exporter of cooking utensils, houseware and kitchen gadgets to Europe, mainly Germany
Few businesses are likely to be as frank and confident about the challenges they face in overseas markets as the Bunhoi Group, long-time exporters of cooking utensils, houseware and kitchen gadgets to Europe, mainly Germany.
"We must be flexible, and quick on our feet to detect changing trends in the marketplace and respond to them fast," says merchandise manager Joachim Arndt.
When the company was building its reputation in the 1970s, the emphasis was always on quality, especially for the demanding German hausfrau. Bunhoi's kitchenware - cooking utensils, knives and a full range of kitchen gadgets - won an excellent reputation, and by the 1980s the company was working almost full-time on OEM orders for some of Germany's leading brands.
"But now things have changed quite drastically," says Arndt. "Borders have disappeared with the European Union and migration has altered things forever - for example, there are large colonies of non-Germans in all the main German cities. The staunch customers of yesterday have become a fluid group with different values and desires. Customers are younger now, and they're looking for trendy products that enhance their lifestyle."
At the same time, many more manufacturers on the Chinese mainland have begun producing the same sort of products, so that the competition has become quite intense. They concentrate on low-cost manufacture and so can undersell manufacturers like Bunhoi which still believe in good quality products.
One way to stay ahead of the competition is to be first into the market with innovative products. Bunhoi's designers and sales staff make regular visits to Europe to observe new trends, also liaising closely with brand-name affiliates to perfect new products.
"If we talk openly about new products we're likely to reveal trade secrets to our competitors," Arndt explains. "For example, we are now producing a completely different and original type of cookware that we expect to become a big seller; but we can give no details yet, except that it's completely different from the traditional metal baking dishes and trays."
Meanwhile, the company is turning to new "pastures" and new product lines to augment its staple business in kitchenware.
Bunhoi is a regular participant at the Frankfurt Ambiente Fair every February and August, and is now considering an exhibition booth at the Moscow Fair as part of an expansion drive into Eastern Europe.
Its new product lines include garden tools, do-it-yourself kits, bathroom accessories and small furniture items. "Some are basic items, while some are quite different such as a handy carry-all full of barbecue implements, and yet others novelty items with buyer appeal," says Arndt.
The group is confident of continuing success and has bought a seven-storey commercial building in the Kwun Tong "factory belt" of Hong Kong, where it will shortly be moving its sales, exhibition, design and administrative offices from expensive rented premises in Tsim Sha Tsui East.
The company has its factory in eastern Shenzhen on the mainland where it cannily sub-leases half the space to another manufacturer. When orders flow in, it has the chance to sub-contract some of the work to this tenant. When there are unexpectedly bigger orders to fill, Bunhoi also has the capacity to employ hundreds of extra temporary staff at the factory.
Bunhoi is confident it has the ingredients in place to serve up a successful strategy for the future.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
9/F, Mirror Tower,
61 Mody Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East,
Kwoloon, Hong Kong
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