4 Aug 2005
Chariots On Fire(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 02,2005)
Vol 2, 2005
Wearbest Shoes Fty Ltd
|Wearbest Shoes Fty Ltd's Chariot brand is so popular in South Africa that young children's shoes are commonly referred to as "chariots"|
The credit for the quality of Wearbest's footwear, however, is often due to the loyal customers who have ensured that OEM/ODM has remained the core of the company's business since its establishment in 1968.
Wearbest's parent Kinway Garments Ltd was founded in 1956 to manufacture clothing, while Wearbest was established 12 years later to take advantage of the obvious synergies between the garment and footwear industries.
The two companies continue to work together in international markets, with sales offices in London, New York and Auckland, and outsourced production plants on the Chinese mainland.
Outsourcing was the logical solution to rising costs in Hong Kong about 10 years ago, explains M.Y. Ko, managing director of both Wearbest and Kinway Garments.
"We used to have a factory in Hong Kong, but in recent years we have not owned factories," he says. "We have an arrangement with five factories on the Chinese mainland to manufacture for us."
According to Ko, the factories, all in neighbouring Guangdong Province, are capable of manufacturing a total of around 500,000 pairs of shoes per month.
Wearbest offers an extensive range of footwear, including babies' shoes, children's shoes, sandals, men's shoes, ladies' shoes, boots and sports shoes.
These are made of a variety of raw materials, including leather, nubuck, PVC, TPT and EVA, that are sourced from the mainland and Taiwan.
FOB Hong Kong prices for most shoes range from US$1-5 per pair, placing the majority of production in the medium-quality area, although Wearbest also makes higher quality leather shoes at higher prices.
Delivery generally takes around 45 days from order confirmation, and the usual minimum order is 1,200 pairs per style, although the company is prepared to be flexible on this point.
"We don't compete primarily on price, and offer good manufacturing and a high level of customer service," Ko insists, claiming that's why Wearbest enjoys long-standing relationships with many of its customers. "They are willing to pay for quality and reliability."
However, although the Chariot brand is well-established, particularly in South Africa, around 70% of Wearbest's business still consists of customer brands.
"We always have new designs coming out - sometimes our own, sometimes supplied by our customers," Ko explains, adding that Wearbest sells directly to several big stores in the US and Canada as well as smaller importers. "We sell to most of the big chain retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Sears, and the superstores."
Wearbest has also succeeded in carving out a niche for itself in other markets, in particular those footwear categories where demand remains perennially high.
As a result, Wearbest is known for children's shoes and sandals in South Africa, while in football-mad South America it is associated with football boots.
In fact, the sports arena provides a striking example of the ways in which the diverse activities of Kinway Garments and Wearbest complement each other.
Kinway Garments makes sportswear - including football strips for clubs such as Manchester United - and Wearbest provides the boots to match.
The result of this collaboration and its own initiatives has seen Wearbest build a particularly strong presence in Europe and North America, although the company also exports to Australasia and Japan.
"We're looking to strengthen our market position in Europe, because we also do good business with garments there," Ko says. "For us the two go hand in hand."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Wearbest Shoes Fty Ltd
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