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Sourcing Central(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 08,2007)

Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair

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Asia's largest gifts and premiums fair once again lived up to its hard-earned reputation as a sourcing centre par excellence

Exhibitors with their sights set on booming Asian markets flooded the Hall of Fine Designs that was the centrepiece of the recent Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair.

Florence Law could have been speaking for hundreds of satisfied exhibitors at the show, which was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from April 28-May 1.

"Hong Kong is the window to China, which explains why we have joined this fair since 2003," the Asia-Pacific region sales manager for NICI GmbH explained. "This is an excellent venue for us to meet up with existing business partners, as well as to explore potential new markets such as Thailand and Vietnam."

Law remarked that she had been able to meet buyers who rarely attended the European fairs where the German company exhibits its animal characters that are fashioned into soft plush toys, beanbag key rings, or become vivid prints on mugs, home or office accessories, fashion bags and pouches.

"This year, I came across many South American buyers, as well as US buyers who showed keen interest," she revealed. "There were also more Asian buyers compared with last year."

She believed that these buyers were attracted by NICI characters, which have very strong emotional appeal to their customers.

"The Wild Friends and Farm Friends series are most popular," Law observed. "This year beanbag key rings and MagNICIs - small beanbag characters with magnets inside - are the hottest items and are fast becoming adorable collectibles."

NICI ships worldwide to more than 50 countries. "We are stronger in premiums in Europe as European buyers opt for quality, while in Asia we perform better in the gift sector," Law explained, adding that NICI currently has six retail shops and more than 100 points of sale on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong and Macau. "We will definitely be back for the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair in 2008."

Equally determined to return next year was Davide Cervellati, export manager of photo frame manufacturer Mascagni S.p.A.

"We are really glad to have touched base with many quality customers from Korea, Australia and Japan who are willing to pay a bit more for our exquisite designs," Cervellati noted. "We will definitely be here next year."

Mascagni's stylish glass photo frames that included models with metal rings, classy lacquered ebony designs in black-and-white zebra print, or a black glass series accented with graphic motifs and Swarovski crystals captured buyers' attention.

"Design is an integral element of our products which, we hope, become an example of refined decor inside a house," Cervellati said. "Hence we always keep track of the latest interior trend directions to keep our twice-yearly collections fashionable and trendy."

Founded in Italy in the 1930s, Italy's oldest photo-frame manufacturer specialises in wood, glass and metal photo frames that account for 90% of its output, with the remainder consisting of photo albums and other sophisticated home accessories.

"We came to this fair for the first time because we do not meet many Asian buyers at other trade events in Paris, Milan and the UK," Cervellati added.

Also keeping a close eye on Asia is BSC ITALIA Spa, which displayed a full range of deluxe corporate gifts bearing such high-fashion names such as Balenciaga, Iceberg, Belfe, Lancetti, Renato Balestra, Gattinoni, Akakuro and Compagnia Delle Indie.

"We are licensed distributors of corporate gifts for these brands and offer two lines - one high-end corporate collection for top VIP clients and another less-costly promotional collection for the managerial levels," explained vice president Stefano Bortolotti.

"We have similar items for both collections, which revolve around fashion accessories like scarves, fashion bags, wallets, watches and luggage."

Supported by its in-house design, development and research departments, BSC ITALIA works closely with various brands to create their gift collections each season.

Production is outsourced, with 80% made in China where quality control is monitored by the company's business partners in Hong Kong.

"We serve more than 600 clients in 46 countries, with our major customers coming from Germany, Italy and France," noted Bortolotti. "However, our goal for this year and 2008 will be Asia, which we believe is buoyant and promising."

BSC ITALIA has already made serious inroads in Asia since its first participation in the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair in 2005.

"We have entered the Indian, Chinese mainland and Japanese markets and added to our existing exports to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines," Bortolotti revealed.

"We also aim to start a Hong Kong office within a year, to supervise quality control on the mainland and customer service in the region."

Another regular exhibitor at the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair that has established a Hong Kong office to manage its booming Asian business is Tangle Inc.

CEO Richard Zawitz said the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair was "the best show in the world" and an important marketing platform for the company.

"Most visitors I have met are from the US, though the market with the most potential is inevitably Asia - it just keeps growing," he said. "That is also why we have already set up an office here."

Zawitz traced the success of the company's stress-relieving puzzles with their numerous colourful variations back to his First Twist and Statue of Infinity sculptures that were inspired by the Tibetan infinity knot.

"It is amazing to think that our Tangle toys, which debuted 26 years ago together with the founding of our company, have sold more than 100 million pieces worldwide," exclaimed Zawitz. "The overwhelming response to the sculptures prompted me to mass-market a hand-held version and it just took off from there."

Technically, a Tangle is a series of 90-degree curves, connected and able to pivot at each joint, but experientially the motion it creates is hypnotic. "It has become the only product to be sold both at Wal-Mart stores and the Museum of Modern Art in New York," Zawitz claimed.

The creative CEO has kept revamping his original idea, making Tangle toys not only big sellers in the retail market, but also very popular premiums.

Recently, Tangle concluded licensing deals with Nickelodeon to produce SpongeBob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer Tangles, while many household names like Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and Jell-O have used Tangles as gifts-with-purchase promos.

"We have introduced Pet Tangle, Baby Tangle, Sports Tangle, the Matrix Tangle stress ball and a Tangle Table Lamp over the years, and this year our hot pick is Tangle Speaker, which is a portable speaker system for an iPod, all digital devices and MP3 players," Zawitz enthused.

Buyers seeking the most innovative and successful gifts and premiums don't need to get themselves into a tangle - all they need do is make a yearly visit to the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair.

TEXT BY WINNIE HUI