15 April 2008
Photo Frames(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2008)
Households and businesses worldwide can always use another photo frame, ensuring their enduring popularity as gifts and premiums
Most people like to collect images, and even in today's digital age there is a desire to own and frame a high-quality print of photographs with personal significance.
Hong Kong has a long history in the photo frame business, and locally based companies make them in an extensive range of styles, sizes and materials.
However, not all of them started out in this specialised line of business, with industry veteran Jingle Metal Products Co Ltd manufacturing mostly metal and plastic name plates for electronic and electrical goods when it started in 1972.
The late 1970s saw Jingle Metal begin to produce metal photo frames, and these rapidly became the main thrust of the company's business, explains Marketing Director Stephen Chow.
"We specialise in metal frames rather than, say, wood," he says, adding that the company also uses bonded leather and acrylic raw materials.
Steel, solid brass, extruded aluminium, sheet aluminium and die-cast zinc alloy are used to produce the company's frame-front and flip albums, and photo storage boxes.
There are thousands of different designs in Jingle Metal's portfolio, and its most popular lines include silver-plated frames, brushed, plated silver frames, and metallic frames that come in fashion colours.
Current popular items include the matt and shiny silver-plated model SBS428-4 and model SJ7H6-46RDCM0/9-0, which features a matt black metal frame with double matt card.
"We keep on introducing new ideas and designs to the marketplace and generally participate in four trade shows per year, so we've driven ourselves to be creative," Mr Chow maintains.
He adds that different countries have different tastes but contemporary designs are the most generally popular. "We're pretty strong in the US and Europe," Mr Chow says.
Chun Kwun Kee Metal Mfy Ltd also started out in an entirely different line of business, having been established in 1963 as a manufacturer of wind chimes and metal accessories for handbags before diversifying into metal photo frames 15 years later.
Business has grown so rapidly that today its Hong Kong office oversees two production facilities in Shenzhen, which together occupy more than a million square feet of floor space.
The company's catalogue currently includes some 3,000 designs, and buyers can choose from a variety of materials, including plastic and hand-crafted wood as well as metal.
Assistant Marketing Manager Chris Law says Chun Kwun Kee's designers welcome requests for custom-made designs, and generate about 500 of their own creations each year.
He says two particularly original designs that have proven highly popular with buyers are model Q288X9-671, a ferris wheel with openings to accommodate a mini gallery of different images, and model S19323-318, a musical carousel with an opening for a single picture.
"We find that photo frames in wood and metal are still the main materials in demand," says Mr Law. "Combinations with plastic and fabric are also a trend, while novelties, colours and patterns are all popular."
Another frame manufacturer which has found customers particularly receptive to a wide ranging choice of frame materials and designs is Tri-Effort Int'l Ltd - a much younger company established in 2001.
According to Sales Executive Jabson Chung, the firm's name derives from its motto - "Effortless quality, effortless price, effortless service".
"We make frames from wood, plastic, glass, aluminium and also polystyrene," Mr Chung states, adding that buyers like a range of different styles.
He says that polystyrene frames are very popular. "We sell them to customers in the US and South Africa," Mr Chung reveals, "so it's quite a successful style."
Tri-Effort's frames are available in seven collections, and its Wood Collection that includes 11x14-inch and 8x10-inch models are particularly elegant traditional designs.
Art Collection, meanwhile, offers a much more contemporary collection known as the Love series that includes eye-catching models ACCE-4001, ACCE-4002 and ACCE-4003.
"Our Love series is made of aluminium, which is the metal we principally work with," says Export Manager Anna Tong. "This series was inspired by Valentine's Day, which is one of the big occasions for people giving photo frames as gifts."
She adds that Art Collection exports "anywhere in the world" but is particularly active in the European and American markets. "We tend to favour modern designs and find that people like something different," Ms Tong adds.
The right frame for the right picture is a highly pesonal choice, but whatever tastes may be it is a safe bet that a Hong Kong company will have the perfect frame for that special photo.
TEXT BY ROBERT PIERCE