2 Aug 2006
A Giant Leap(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 02,2006)
Sun Lik Shoes & Metal Co Ltd
|The world’s ballerinas know they can rely on the elegant ballet shoes manufactured by Sun Lik Shoes & Metal Co Ltd|
The company opened for business in 1980 specialising in ordinary carpet slippers, but is now a leading manufacturer of the specialised shoes in which the world's ballerinas perform their demanding dance moves. "Our major business is children's shoes, but now about 40% of our production is devoted to ballet shoes," explains managing director Sunny Li.
According to Li, Sun Lik began its change of direction when a relationship was established with a major US customer that had a big presence in both the children's and ballet shoes market. "As an OEM supplier, we were able to provide the company with the products it needed, on time, and at the right price," she says.
The company also developed its production capability, establishing its first manufacturing facility in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland before moving to larger, self-built premises in Dongguan as business picked up.
Sun Lik now employs 1,300 people at a 20,000-square-foot facility, and has another small factory of around 4,000 square feet in Foshan that helps ensure it can meet client demands.
However, despite its manufacturing muscle, the company has avoided getting involved with design work or brand-building as its ballet customers are more concerned with the quality of the materials and workmanship.
"There is little room for variation on the universally selected classic ballet shoe, although for children's shoes we process as many as 1,000 different styles per year," Li observes.
Most of those designs are supplied by customers, but for those new to the business Sun Lik is able to offer a consultancy service based on expertise gleaned over long years in footwear manufacturing.
"Our FOB Hong Kong prices for children's shoes start at around US$5 a pair for infants' shoes, while prices for older children's shoes begin at around US$10 a pair," Li notes. "Ballet shoe prices depend very much on the material cost, but they range from about US$4-8 a pair."
Minimum orders of 3,000 pairs per style per colour are accepted by the company, while samples can be produced in about three weeks and orders delivered within three months.
"We can produce around 300,000 pairs of shoes per month," says Li, approximately 60% of which are leather while the rest consist of fabrics and synthetic materials. "We source most of the leather in Korea, but the fabric, PVC and other materials are mostly from the mainland."
Around 60% of the ballet shoes are leather - though there is also demand for canvas dance footwear - and Sun Lik enjoys reliable repeat business as ballet shoes wear out fairly rapidly.
"We've been making ballet shoes for over seven years now and we've sold more than three million pairs, so it's a pretty big market," states Li, adding that demand for children's shoes is even bigger, with around 60% stemming from the US and the rest of Sun Lik's production going to Europe and Asia.
Business is robust, and Li is optimistic about future prospects with sales currently growing steadily. "Demand in the US is very stable right now because of one very loyal customer, but we're growing in Europe," she admits. "We want to develop more business there, and further down the road we would like to establish a presence in other markets where we are not yet known."
Sun Lik has room for long-term expansion of its manufacturing capability as its Dongguan factory stands on a large plot which it owns, and guarantees substantial room for further construction.
Li adds that a "capable and experienced workforce" is also important for future development as skilled manual work continues to account for much of the manufacturing process despite Sun Lik's efforts to increase mechanisation in a number of areas.
"We want to grow in the ballet shoes market by acquiring more customers in Europe and elsewhere," she says, adding that Sun Lik also produces tai chi shoes but is currently content to make customer brands. "We supply a number of very well-known names and plan to establish a brand of our own at some point in the future, but it takes patience and time."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Sun Lik Shoes & Metal Co Ltd
Harbour Crystal Centre,
100 Granville Rd,
Tsim Sha Tsui,
Kowloon, Hong Kong