8 Feb 2005
A Jewel Of A Brand(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 01,2005)
Lap Ko Shoes Mfrs Ltd
|Children's footwear is a specialty of Lap Ko Shoes Mfrs Ltd, which has launched its own Topaz brand|
"We have our own Topaz brand, which we are going to develop this year," explains manager Carven Wong. "We thought the time was right because we have experience in helping customers to produce their brands, and we have the know-how."
It does indeed: Lap Ko concentrates primarily on children's footwear and its OED/OEM work has carried a variety of household names, ranging from Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street to Care Bear.
The company helps design and market the products of Bu Bu Tong Shoes Fty in Huidong County, Guangdong Province, which has been in business for several decades, employs more than 250 workers and manufactures 180,000-200,000 pairs of shoes a month.
"We started with a small factory on the mainland dealing with trading companies in Hong Kong, then Bu Bu was established to deal with foreign customers directly," Wong recalls.
Now, Lap Ko is ready to start building its own international brand, and according to Wong is looking forward to the challenge of making Topaz a sparkling performer.
"Topaz footwear will initially be sold in France and the Middle East, and ultimately we hope to build it into a global brand," he says. "We would like to expand our customer base in Europe, and we're also keen to grow in Asia, where economic growth is very high."
However, the OED/OEM business will remain Lap Ko's core activity and it will continue to maintain its present close relationships with existing clients.
"Our main market is in Europe and we have some customers in North America, the Middle East and Japan," Wong explains. "We try to have a small number of customers in each country, but spread out all over the world as we think that's a prudent strategy."
Although Lap Ko has made both men's and women's shoes, and continues to make some women's sandals, it has specialised in recent years in children's footwear.
This sector is almost as subject to fashion as ladies' shoes, which is why Lap Ko stresses its strong design capability - although it is also able to manufacture shoes to customer designs.
Wong says that most clients find it easier to choose from the range of up to 50 new shoes the company's design team generates every month. "We have five designers altogether who work for us full-time - two in Hong Kong and three on the mainland - so we can depend on a steady supply of good designs," he maintains.
Wong says the design team constantly comes up with new ideas and adds that changes in children's shoes have been faster over the last couple of years than in previous years.
"Many new materials are now being used for children's shoes - denim, for example, for special effects and special types of PU," he notes. "People are much more trend-conscious than in previous years and the demand for leather also reflects a greater concern with quality."
Wong estimates that around 30% of the company's output involves some leather, while PU or textiles are the primary materials for the remainder. "People like false fur trims on shoes or shiny sparkling elements as there is a vogue for ornamentation," he says.
Lap Ko is equally flexible with regard to orders, and the Huidong factory welcomes requests for as few as 600 pairs because the company recognises that big business can grow from small beginnings.
"We have handled orders as large as 50,000 pairs for one style and colour," she explains. "Now orders tend to be more diversified in terms of style and colour, although they may be for the same number of pairs."
Delivery generally takes 45-60 days from order confirmation, with the longer time generally attributable to peak season demand in June and July and the two months leading up to Chinese New Year. FOB Hong Kong prices start from about US$1.40 for a pair of baby shoes, with sandals starting from around US$2.50.
"We make almost every variety of children's shoes - baby shoes, boots, sandals, casual shoes and dress shoes," Wong concludes." It's a growing market, and we want to have a broad international presence."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Lap Ko Shoes Mfrs Ltd
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