29 Oct 2008
The Write Stuff(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 04,2008)
In today's competitive gifts and premiums market, the pen set still reigns supreme by offering a high-end look while maintaining a low price point
Despite today's PDA-savvy generation, people just can't seem to have enough writing instruments, which has rendered the humble pen set the perfect gift or premium.
Recognising its enduring popularity, manufacturers such as Well Asia Development (HK) Ltd provide a wide choice of pen set designs. "We offer more than 100 plastic pen sets, which are used in the premiums industry, and some 20-30 metal pen sets. Some of them are for the premiums sector, others are sold as branded pens, and some are destined for gift stores," says Sales Executive Jacky Cheung.
"Our most popular pen sets are plastic pens, with designs very much dependent on the promotional purpose," he explains. "Our most popular order is for single ball pens in plastic or paper presentation boxes."
Also in demand are Well Asia's metal pen sets in roller, ball or fountain combinations, which are made of brass and feature classic designs in shiny or matt chrome. "Silver is the most popular colour as it is simple and elegant," Mr Cheung advises.
He notes that the hottest set is the ball and roller, with the favourite packaging an elegant paper box - usually in black to highlight a company's logo. "Metal, plastic and wooden boxes are also available," he adds.
FOB Hong Kong prices for plastic pen sets comprising roller and ball pens in a paper presentation box range from US$1.50- 4.00 per set, with metal versions costing US$3-10 per set. Most of Well Asia's business is open items, while about 20%-30% is OEM.
"Europe is our biggest market, accounting for 30%-40% of exports. Other important destinations include the US and Southeast Asia," says Mr Cheung.
Operating in a slightly different niche, Hui Hua Co Ltd specialises in wooden gifts and premiums. "We offer more than 20 wooden pen set designs tailored to customers' needs, and also accept OEM," says Sales Manager Martin Tsang.
Pens and boxes are available in maple, walnut, oak or rosewood, and some are made of "bi-wood" comprising two woods, normally maple and rosewood. "Maple is the most popular wood in the US, while maple and rosewood are favoured in the more upmarket European sector," observes Mr Tsang. "We offer ballpoint, roller and fountain pens."
He says most orders are for pen sets with a wooden case - usually one ball and one roller pen - although Hui Hua can produce any combination.
Unit prices range from US$0.60 FOB Hong Kong for a maple ball pen to more than US$5 for a boxed gift set with one or two pens, depending on requirements. "Most of our products are for the premiums market, which is very price-conscious," Mr Tsang notes.
The US absorbs 50% of the company's output, Europe 30% and Japan more than 5%. "Russia and Dubai are new markets for our premiums products," Mr Tsang adds.
To optimise its potential, Hui Hua has recently expanded its range to include wooden desk items, such as card boxes, desk trays, clip holders and pencil holders.
In contrast, metal is the material of choice for Eagle (Int'l) Development Co, which produces more than 100 different pen and pen set designs. "Our R&D team rolls out new, innovative styles every month and we also offer ODM and OEM services," says Manager Alan Chan.
"Leather, carbon fibre and metal pen sets in classic, elegant designs are our most popular items, such as our new chrome-plated metal pen set model F/BP-3249, available in fountain and ball pen versions, which features delicate etching on the barrel," he adds.
Noting that a pen set's price depends on those of its components, Mr Chan advises that prices range from US$0.50 FOB Hong Kong for a metal promotional pen to US$15 for a luxury version.
Some 40% of Eagle's exports go to Europe, 20% to the Middle East, 20% to the US, 10% to Australia and the South Pacific, and 10% to other regions.
Meanwhile, Super Hyper Ltd produces ball, roller and fountain pens as well as mechanical pencils, which can be grouped in any combination to make an attractive set.
"We offer approximately 50 pen set designs, used mainly for the premiums industry, with some 80% of our business our own designs and 20% OEM," explains General Manager Monica Li.
The company's best seller is its metal/leather ball and roller pen set, which features a central barrel wrapped in real or PU leather. "The ball and roller is the most popular combination for pen sets and the leather wrap produces a high-end look," Ms Li observes.
Super Hyper's pen sets range in price from FOB Hong Kong US$2.20 for a standard metal roller and ball pen set to US$5 for a ball and fountain pen combination in metal and carbon fibre.
The company sells mainly to the US, which takes 20% of exports, while Europe, Southeast Asia and Dubai are other important markets.
"Pen sets are still very popular items worldwide as they are practical, useful and have a low price point, which is particularly advantageous for the premiums business," Ms Li maintains.
Apparently, buyers can rest assured of consumer demand for this product category, especially if they are sourcing from Hong Kong.
TEXT BY SANDRA JENNER