16 Nov 2004
Steeling The Show(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 01,2005)
Cirlite Ltd's core business of stainless steel household products is flourishing amid rising popularity for these items. It continues to successfully introduce new designs and applications by identifying consumers' needs.
A wide range of well-designed and good quality modern household products at competitive prices has been key to Cirlite's success, according to marketing manager Joe Chan.
Founded in 1981, Cirlite today specialises in four categories of stainless steel household products: cutlery, kitchenware, bathroom items and household accessories.
What began as an operation with just two people has grown fast in the past two decades. It now has a staff of about 400, including those in the Hong Kong office and the Chinese mainland, where it has a 40,000-square-metre factory in Guangdong Province.
The group has also developed its own Cirlite brand, on top of OEM and ODM operations. OEM presently accounts for nearly 25% of sales, with ODM and own design comprising the remainder.
Its main clients come from the US, Canada, the UK and Germany. These include specialty stores, importers and department stores who either use private labels or the Cirlite brand.
The company's best-selling products include a stainless steel coaster (more than two million pieces of these were sold to Europe in the past year), a rubbish bin and a laundry basket with a lid that can serve as a seat.
One of its latest designs, a cappuccino template, became a hot item soon after its launch. With eight patterns altogether - including motifs that feature a butterfly, a bat and a heart - it has received orders for 1.1 million pieces in the past year.
Buoyed by these successes, Cirlite plans to further strengthen its product range by launching a series of kitchen accessories, such as steamers and kitchen utensils in the coming year, Chan says.
"Stainless steel is a food-grade material that is durable and utilitarian. It is ideal for use in kitchenware," he adds.
Cirlite also plans to diversify its stainless steel product range by introducing a household clock series. The aim is to make good use of its existing production facilities as most of its moulds can be adapted to manufacture clock cases.
"We have kicked off the soft launch of a few designs to test market response, and expect to release the product series in Germany in February and at some of Hong Kong's major fairs in April," Chan says.
He explains that the group's business has been flourishing in the past two years thanks to a strong euro and an economic recovery in the EU. At the same time, the rising cost of hardware and plastic materials this year has begun to squeeze the company's profit margin.
However, Chan explains that the company has always managed to keep its customers happy by giving them the most up-to-date information on its new products.
"We come up with new designs every month and collect existing customers' comments for evaluating and modifying these designs where necessary," he said.
Cirlite's design and marketing staff make it a point to attend major industry fairs, while also visiting department stores and chain stores worldwide. They also visit design houses in Europe to collect the latest market information.
"European design houses are at least one year ahead of our market here. Buyers worldwide also study this information while placing their orders or working with manufacturers to develop new products," Chan explains.
"Our staff will do trend analyses after overseas fact-finding tours and come up with new design ideas that keep pace with industry developments overseas," he adds.
"Currently, the market is fond of designs with sharp contours and edges. They like mirror and matt finishes, and even two-tone finishes."
With its ability to successfully spot emerging design trends and meet customer demand for new products, Cirlite is confidently looking at the future.
WRITTEN BY VANAPA ONGVISES