3 July 2007
In The Frame(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 07,2007)
Photo Frames & Albums
|Asia Trading Co is a leading manufacturer of photo frames and photo specialty products that exports worldwide under its own 21st Century brand|
Celebrating its 38th anniversary in 2007, Asia Trading Co started life in 1969 as a metal printing company known as Asia Gravure Ltd. Today, the company is a leading manufacturer of photo frames and photo specialty products and exports worldwide under its own 21st Century brand.
"We specialise in photo frames, albums, clocks, jewellery musical boxes, home decor items and stationery, in addition to a range of desktop accessories," says marketing executive Veronica Wong. "All items are produced in a wide range of materials including aluminium/steel, wood and MDF, leather and polyresin."
The firm was also quick to expand. "We started to make photo frames in 1977, basically because we saw the demand trend," recalls Wong.
"Then, in 1987, we moved the production process to the Chinese mainland, thus enjoying much more space and the opportunity to modernise our facilities. That was when we also became more aggressive as an exporter."
Each year, Asia Trading tries to develop products that follow market trends. "For example, we look at new designs, new materials and ways to combine all the different elements. We mostly produce aluminium frames and also do a lot of silver-plating," Wong says.
The price-point is also important. "We try to find a natural balance between the raw materials, the quality and the selling price, and find that our products quickly fill specific niche market needs," Wong explains.
Photo frames from Asia Trading are offered in collections such as Love, highlighting a red heart motif, and Baby, especially for the newborn, which comes in very cheerful designs including a central photo space surrounded by windows to hold a picture for each of the ensuing 12 months. "Graduation day is also a very popular theme for a photo collection," says Wong.
An epoxy glitter effect that provides added sparkle also forms the basis of another collection. Then there are gold-anodized aluminium series, matt metallic grey frames, and curved designs that look particularly outstanding.
"People thought there would be a revolution in the industry with the advent of the digital camera," Wong recalls. "What we are seeing is less business for film processors and photographic shops, and more people printing their photos at home. This has created a market niche for our frames because of the difference in printed size between digital and film photographs."
Asia Trading has to face almost daily challenges in the form of fluctuating prices of raw materials. "Prices have increased quite dramatically in the past two years," says Wong.
"With customers reluctant to absorb those increases we had find a way to continue to be competitive and also make a profit. We managed that by looking at our internal operations and by determining product prices on a case-by-case basis."
At times, the firm has simply had to absorb increased costs itself. "This meant that inventory control became very important, because too much stock lying idle ties up money. Also our total running costs had to be minimised via tight, well-organised manufacturing procedures," Wong says.
Production takes place at the firm's 400,000-square-foot, 1,500-worker factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland. "Our facilities are well-equipped with some 150 metal stamping and moulding machines and a monthly output capacity of more than 2.8 million items," Wong claims. "Our in-house tooling and design teams work closely with customers to develop OEM designs and new, trend-setting products."
The firm has also installed new machinery to keep up with advances in printing technology. "Printing with high-end machinery means we can speed up the whole production time and get a better lead time for new products and samples," adds Wong. "This is an advantage when producing special OEM projects."
For the future, Wong says Asia Trading will commit to improving all of its customer services. "As a leading manufacturer in this segment of the industry we have to demonstrate excellence at all levels, from sourcing to manufacturing and from processing to delivery," she smiles.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
Asia Trading Co