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Tempting Treats(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 08,2007)

Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair

 

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There were plenty of new and exciting products to be found at the world's second-largest gifts and premiums fair

Both new and returning visitors were delighted with the enormous range of exciting items on offer at the recent Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair.

For example, Luis Fernando Ardila Mesa of Bogota, Colombia, was concentrating on two distinct product categories during his visit to the Hong Kong and Convention Centre from April 28-May 1 this year.

The president of bakery supplies and Christmas decorations importer and wholesaler Orquidea has been coming to the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair since 1998.

"I succeed in selling the products that I buy here," Ardila explained. "My established suppliers are happy to see me, but I always look for new designs and new suppliers too."

He believed that South America's giftware market was expanding. "My customers want good quality, but at attractive prices," Ardila maintained. "Here, I find desirable merchandise at prices that allow me to sell in Colombia."

The market for Christmas items was growing "extra fast", he claimed. "Each year people want new decorations, switching to the new models and items," Ardila observed. "It's a good business, but with stiff competition."

First-time visitor Ives Palmer from Sydney was pursuing environmental themes as part of his job as Australian Geographic merchandise manager.

"We're a nature-and-environment store focused on Australian values and culture," he explained. "We want educational toys for children and items of an educational nature for adults."

These include products like books, environmental science kits and energy-efficient items that involve exploring and discovering the world.

"We talk to suppliers about ensuring that packaging follows environmental guidelines and about using renewable resources in production," Palmer noted. "Suppliers say they're moving in that direction because other customers ask [these questions] too."

He added that Australians are educated consumers. "They're well-read, aware and prepared to make some sacrifices," Palmer said. "They believe the environment is important and want products that treat it with respect, while parents look for environmental items to educate their children."

Talking to people at the fair convinced him that environmental concerns have taken root around the world. "Education is a big part of the process," Palmer claimed. "It's possible to succeed in business while being environmentally-friendly."

He was clearly impressed with his first visit to the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair. "It's really huge and well-organised, and the quality of the stands and products is good," Palmer observed. "The concepts and the compiling of whole packages - products with packaging - look very strong."

Equally impressed with the event was Empire Int'l Merchandising Corp president Hubert S. Co, a licensing specialist based in the Philippines.

"Exhibits at Hong Kong's trade fairs give me ideas," Co said, adding that he looks for new items and new sources and finds it very inspiring. "Hong Kong never loses its importance, thanks to the many factories in southern China, so I'll keep returning."

He visits Hong Kong "four or five times a year" to find products and become their Asian licensing agent. "My possibilities stretch across the board - toys, dolls, timepieces, baby products, footwear, sports gear, stationery, gifts and even food," Co explained.

"Almost anything may inspire licensing deals tied to characters from the movies, cartoons, TV shows or video games."

He believed the Asian licensing business was showing strong growth, especially in China. "It's not always well-organised, but it's coming along," he insisted. "The future looks so bright that you need sunglasses."

Empire Int'l Merchandising has offices in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

During this trip, Co was seeking items with links to Japanese animation or Korean drama. "Interest in those remains region-wide," he said. "But this year's greatest thing may be a new Hollywood movie entitled Transformers - the robot trend is returning and it'll be hot."

Sales specialist Kaisa Siitari from Deltaline Ltd of Finland attended the fair with her father, Juha Siitari, the company's founder and manager.

"We specialize in advertising items, mainly business gifts like bags and pens, to suit our customers' tastes," Siitari said. "As wholesalers to stores and companies, big customers and small ones, we want new items and lots of ideas."

Launched 15 years ago, Deltaline has grown steadily, and many of its successes and plans hinge on products sourced in Hong Kong. "The merchandise is competitively priced," said Juha Siitari.

Finnish customers insisted on good quality at attractive prices, Siitari added. "They like simple designs and basic colours."

She was visiting the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair for the first time while her father was making his fourth visit. "We also attend trade fairs in Finland, but otherwise rely on finding new products in Hong Kong," Siitari said.

Although she was also attending the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair for the first time, Carolyne Hoshooley of Toronto encountered scores of people she knew.

The Canadian Gift and Tableware Association's international trade manager represents 1,600 wholesalers, manufacturers, importers and distributors in her home country.

"Hundreds of our members source products at the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair," she said. "Around every corner, I recognised Canadian faces."

Giftware traders have wide interests. "Our association has a hard time defining gifts now - they could be anything - so even snow tyres may qualify in Canada," Hoshooley observed.

"Our members tend to want jewellery, fashion accessories, home decor and stationery, but our expanded categories include items for children, gardening and outdoor living."

She noted that many buyers look for pet products such as T-shirts, dishes and booties for dogs or cats that are currently in vogue. "Some carry messages, like Lucky Dog," Hoshooley added. "People favour what they know, and many have pets."

Canadian buyers also insist on the latest colours. "Orange, green, white, black and pink are popular," Hoshooley said, noting that trend lives have shortened.

Her members used to come to the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, buy a container of products in a certain colour and know that the colour would stay the course long enough to sell the container, but that's no longer necessarily the case.

"Fashion has become disposable - colours, patterns and textiles all change quickly and no one wants last year's colours," Hoshooley said.

She added that the Canadian gifts industry looked stable, although big-box stores open and put pressure on small independent retailers. "Yet our membership grows by 150 to 200 per year," Hoshooley noted. "We see a shrinking retail side, but more suppliers."

All of which bodes well for exhibitors at the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair who keep coming up with new and exciting products to tempt jaded buyers.

 

TEXT BY JOHN CAIRNS

Rewriting The Record Books

A record-breaking 3,901 exhibitors from 38 countries and regions took part in the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from April 28-May 1 this year.

The largest of its kind in Asia and the second largest in the world, the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair showcased an extensive array of quality gift and premium products.

New exhibitors this year from emerging markets such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland and Peru helped attract 50,585 trade visitors from all over the world.

In addition, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which co-organised the event, invited 88 buying missions from 55 countries and regions, including 3,100 companies and 6,000 buyers.

Among them were a number of well-known international chain stores and leading distributors, including Carrefour of France, MUJI and SOGO from Japan, Sweden's H&M; the UK's Tesco and Woolworths and Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us from the US.

Several international brand names also sourced promotional items at the fair, including Coca-Cola, Carlsberg Brewery, Christian Dior-Parfums and Moet Hennessy.

"Hong Kong's gift and premium exports totalled more than US$20bn in 2006," fair organising committee chairman Jeffrey Lam noted.

"That's telling evidence of Hong Kong's ability to gauge market trends, to respond to buyers' needs with efficiency, speed and quality."

This year's fair:

  • expanded to cover 78,000 square metres
  • featured 4,200 booths and three special zones
  • showcased 51 companies and their elegant collections in The Hall of Fine Designs
  • presented a broad range of traditional, hi-tech and educational children's gift items in Kid's World
  • spotlighted decorative and functional items at the Ladies' Gifts and Premium section
  • featured products including advertising gifts, pictures and photo frames, ceramic gifts, silverware, consumer electronics, stationery, corporate gifts, toys and sporting goods, fashion jewellery and accessories, travel goods, watches and clocks, general gift items, paper and packaging and party and holiday decorations

Pakistan put together a group pavilion for the first time, while other group pavilions included Australia, the Chinese mainland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the UK and members of the Hong Kong Exporters' Association.

Adding spice to the fair was a series of handicraft demonstrations, including Japanese gift wrapping, stained-glass bookmark making and d嶰oupage.