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Hong Kong Houseware Fair(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 06,2006)

Quality Counts

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The Hong Kong Houseware Fair closed on April 24 to thunderous applause from more than 2,300 exhibitors from 36 countries and regions who had attracted more than 32,000 buyers with a dazzling array of products.

Three days earlier, at the opening ceremony on April 21, Fair Organising Committee chairman Jeffrey Lam introduced guest-of-honour Henry Tang, Financial Secretary of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, who observed, "The Hong Kong houseware industry has moved up the value chain with more emphasis on good design, advanced technology and product quality and targeted marketing efforts."

Now in its 21st year, the largest event of its kind in Asia was again organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The vibrant state of the houseware industry was reflected in the hive of buying and selling activity as visitors crammed the 15 group pavilions bearing the banners of Australia, the Chinese mainland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the US and Vietnam.

The TDC had also organised 70 buying missions to Hong Kong, while more than 1,500 companies and 2,600 VIP buyers from 31 countries and regions were also invited to attend.

On show were exhibit categories that included artificial flowers, bathroom accessories, furniture, gardening and outdoor accessories, handicrafts, hardware and DIY products, health and personal care items, home decorations, tableware, small electrical appliances, kitchenware and gadgets and more.

Buyers and sellers alike said they were also excited by the greater scale and variety of the 2006 edition, which covered a gross floor area of 56,000 square metres.

For example, one special highlight was the prestigious Hall of Elegance, where designer collections and world-class brands featuring unique designs from 27 exhibitors from Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium and Canada to Germany, Spain, the UAE and the Chinese mainland were on show.

Buyers also wanted to view the best of Hong Kong's houseware products in the Central Display Area at Atrium One, where items were displayed according to four themes: True Blue, Innocent Pleasures, Natural World and Tradition of Luxury.

Many buyers, coming mainly from the US, Japan, Australia, the UK, Germany, Canada, Italy, Korea, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, expressed delight at the diversity of products and anticipated returning for next year's fair.

"Retail sales of household products in Japan are growing along with the economic recovery and our consumers are looking for more creative items. I've come with our licensees who are interested in various home items such as mugs, tableware and kitchenware," said Ryozo Kimura, director, Home-Japan, Disney Consumer Products, Japan.

"The Hong Kong Houseware Fair is a concentration of Western and Asian cultures with so many products to choose from and compare. Everything is good here - from product design and variety to supporting services. The exhibition venue is a convenient location that allows us to do some market research in the city's shopping districts. I expect to come again next year with more licensees."

A.W. Nsouli, of Est. A.W. Salah Nsouli, Lebanon - an importer and wholesaler of medium- to high-end household products - said that he lost no time in ordering goods.

"This is a really good fair with a great variety of quality products. The exhibitors have produced some nice houseware items with innovative designs and creative packaging," he said. "I've already placed orders for several items such as ceramic tableware and silverware, and hope to do more deals in the next couple of days."

Meanwhile, Janina Stepniewska, director/president, Trading Co Sonic, Poland, appreciated being able to source good quality stainless steel kitchenware to import to Poland.

"Quality is very important to us, and we find many exhibitors at the fair - usually with factories on the Chinese mainland - that can provide the high standard we require for our business," she said. "Every year we find there are more people attending the fair so, for buyers, it is a great opportunity to view a wide variety of products and compare them, all under one roof."

The trading results at the fair will certainly add to Hong Kong's exports in this sector, which totalled US$22bn in 2005, to major markets that included the US, the Chinese mainland, Japan, Germany and the UK.

WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA

Green Products Proving Popular

Environmentally-friendly products were high on the agendas of both buyers and exhibitors at the Hong Kong Houseware Fair (April 21-24, 2006), according to the findings of a survey of exhibitors and buyers at the fair.

Exhibitors (83%) and buyers (77%) were concerned about environmental protection, with 74% of the interviewed buyers saying they would source more green products over the next three years.

Interviewed buyers defined green products as those that use environmentally-friendly packaging, recycled materials, lead-free and halogen-free materials and consume energy efficiently.

Respondents were optimistic about market prospects in 2006. More than 60% believed the houseware industry would perform better than in 2005, especially those focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.

Interviewed exhibitors believed that emerging markets (Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, India, Africa and the Middle East), Japan and the Chinese mainland, would post the strongest retail growth rates. The growth rate in these markets averages 19%, higher than the 16% expected growth rate in the US and Western Europe.

Tableware and kitchenware, home decorations, bathroom accessories and furniture were singled out as the products with the highest growth this year. Fashionable design, functionality and value-for-money were cited as major considerations when choosing houseware products.

Colour is becoming more important for home decorations. Pastels, along with metallic, white and bright colours are gaining in popularity, while design trends for 2006 include raw and natural styles, East-meets-West and retro designs.

Branded houseware products were also expected to have better prospects this year, particularly for home decorations, furniture and health and personal care items. Environmentally-friendly and anti-bacterial materials were also becoming popular in cookware and tableware.

Licensed properties for bathroom accessories, home decorations and housewares - especially classic Western cartoon characters for the latter - are strong sellers in the industry.

Commissioned by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the survey gauged the sentiments of 415 exhibitors and 706 buyers.