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Classic Look (HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 01,2000)

Vol. 1 2000

PRODUCT FEATURES

Classic Look
- Fashion Leather Shoes

Comfortably Stylish
- Clogs & Mules

Pace Setters
- Sports Shoes

All Laced Up
- Children's Boots

Classic Look
Fashion Leather Shoes

SHOES have come a long way from simply protecting our soles to becoming a fashion item. Now, most people will put time and effort into finding footwear that looks and fits right.

Fortitud Enterprise Co makes both classic and trendy leather shoes. Its classic dark brown leather men's loafer has simple lines, a stacked heel and narrow toe and sells for US$11.80 a pair FOB Hong Kong, for the minimum order of 3,600 pairs. A trendier version of this shoe, priced at US$11.70, features a square-shaped toe and thick rubber sole. Manager Simon Lam says the company designs the shoes, which are targeted at office workers, in-house.

Founded in 1993, Fortitud produces 40,000 pairs of shoes a month at its 300-worker factory in mainland China, using leather from Brazil, South Korea and the mainland. About 70% of the work is done by hand, says Lam. Quality control is strict. "We check the quality of the raw materials before production. We monitor during production as well as after. We try to provide our customers with a product that will enhance their reputation for good shoes," Lam says.

Main markets include Europe and South Africa. Delivery takes 30-45 days after receipt of an L/C.

Golden Shine Trading Ltd is another company with strict quality control. Its men's dress shoes are beautifully crafted with much attention to detail. "You get high value for money with our shoes. They look imported [from Europe] and most of the work is hand-crafted," says managing director Eric Shen.

The range of dress shoes from Golden Shine includes the classic brown lace-up, which will polish any look with its well-cut and neatly stitched design. The black wing-tip model is sophisticated and well proportioned, as is the black loafer.

High standards have made the firm's shoes popular in France, Canada, Switzerland and the UK, where they sell under the brand Traditions. These shoes are aimed at the mid-range market, with FOB Hong Kong prices of about US$13 per pair. They are mainly designed in-house, but clients may submit their own designs, says Shen.

Slightly more than a year old, the company produces 30,000 pairs a month at its 400-worker factory in Guangzhou, on the mainland. It uses leather from the subcontinent, South America and the mainland. Minimum order is 4,000 pairs. Shen says Golden Shine tries to maintain good customer service through good communication and responsiveness to clients' needs.

China Island Enterprises Ltd makes the standard brown boat shoe, using soft cowhide upper and rubber sole, to high standards of design and stitching. FOB Hong Kong price is US$15.50 a pair. Minimum order is 1,000 pairs, for delivery in 45 days.

Founded in 1992, the company has a factory in Guangzhou, on the mainland, and exports mainly to Chile, Bulgaria and Australia.

Top Sun Mfg Co Ltd makes shoes aimed at the low to middle range of the market, says manager Dorothy Goh. A thick, rubber-soled men's shoe with a hook-and-loop strap across the top is padded for comfort and support. The range of women's footwear includes a brown EVA "alligator-skin" pump with a rubber wedge sole.

"We have our own designers and we watch the market and follow the trends," says Goh. Founded in 1989, the company produces for labels such as Hush Puppies and Avanti. Its factory in Dongguan, on the mainland, makes 120,000 pairs a month. Minimum order is 800 pairs, with delivery in 60 days. Main markets include the Netherlands, Germany, France and Japan.

Hong Kong Zhoulin BFS Co Ltd concentrates on creating a different kind of shoe. Its line of health care shoes helps improve micro blood circulation, says marketing officer Suki Lee. She claims that the loafers and sneakers are made of leather and inorganic compound materials that, combined with the design, hit the right acupressure points on the feet, helping improve circulation. "The shoes are a little expensive compared to others, but they have extra features."

Lee says the process of making the shoes has already been patented in many countries. Minimum order is 300 pairs and delivery takes four weeks. Major markets include the mainland, Southeast Asia and Germany.

WRITTEN BY MELISSA WESTCOTT


Comfortably Stylish
Clogs & Mules

SUPERMODELS may totter down the world's catwalks wearing six-inch heels, but out on the street the trend is definitely towards easy-going comfort. Thus back-less sandals, or mules, have become popular with consumers on every continent. Spotting this trend, Hong Kong's footwear manufacturers have come up with a wide range of back-less footwear. There are roomy, wide-toed mules on comfy soles, slim and delicate fairy-tale slippers and a range of materials from hessian and cow suede to satin and mesh.

Coming up with new combinations of soles, uppers and designs keeps Hong Kong manufacturers at the forefront of the world's casual shoe industry. Vitamin Industries Ltd, for example, mixed crepe soles with cow suede and got the thumbs-up from Japanese buyers.

"The crepe sole mule has been popular with Japanese buyers since summer 1999, and combined with a suede upper, we think it will be the most popular item this year too," explains manager Enid Ho.

The Japanese market is notoriously difficult to break into, but Vitamin, a relative newcomer to the industry, says the company's flexible order system, negotiable minimum order and quality level quickly won customers there. At US$5.50-12 per pair FOB Hong Kong, the price is right too.

The crepe sole product line has also found favour with the European market, where crepe soles were made popular by major brand names such as Clarks and Kickers. Of course Vitamin can work with any materials the customer requires and Ho is proud of the company's product development capabilities.

"We have very strong links with materials suppliers worldwide and this enables us to be very strong in terms of product development," she says.

In such a competitive market, product development has become the buzzword among the most successful companies. "The only way to survive is to become strong in this respect," says Tommy Fong, manager of Peninsula Shoes Co.

Making both leather upper and synthetic products, Peninsula offers mules with faux fur trim and leather/fabric combinations in the US$3.50-6.50 per pair FOB Hong Kong price range. The company produces 60,000-80,000 pairs a month at its factory in Zhongshan, mainland China, and ships worldwide. Minimum order is one TEU.

Also focusing on in-house innovation is Sanwo Int'l Co Ltd. The company develops all its own outsoles rather than relying on the designs of outsole suppliers. "This gives us an advantage because our customers can be confident that our designs are totally original," says general manager Kieth Lee.

This year's range of mules includes designs in strong fruity colours with contrasting uppers and lining. The result is casual but striking, and Sanwo's products go down well in Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. With a price range of US$18-23 per pair FOB Hong Kong for mules, Sanwo is not in the market to compete on price, says Lee. "I want to compete on quality, design and timing, rather than simply on price," he explains.

Sanwo's 300-worker factory on the mainland produces about 25,000 pairs a month. Delivery takes 30-60 days, and no minimum order is required.

Ever Success Footwear Ltd has also moved upmarket and has buyers all over the world for its range of sandals and fashion shoes. Director James Chan noticed that about three years ago mules were becoming a popular outdoor item, and the firm has been producing sample ranges since then.

The company exports about 45% of its products to the US, 30% to Japan and the rest to Europe and Australia. FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$6 to US$7 per pair, based on the minimum order of 3,000 pairs, and materials vary with the seasons, to include PU, textiles and leather. As well as adapting materials to the changing climate, the key to successful client relationships is reliability, says Chan.

"We like that every client can give us repeat orders and to get that we offer a good service, strong follow-up and the right price," he says.

Offering plenty of choice is vital if you want customers to keep coming back, says Esther Lam, senior merchandiser at Manley Footwear Ltd. The company produces more than 100 new footwear designs a year, including a range of mules in the US$2.50-3.20 per pair FOB Hong Kong price range. Apart from products in PVC and EVA, Manley has developed dainty beaded slippers. Using sequins and beads on a mesh base, the upper shows how feminine and pretty mules can be.

"Every mule must be very fashionable; both style and choice of materials are very important," says Lam.

The company's main markets are western and eastern Europe, and both demand high quality at a competitive price. "For our eastern European customers, we need to guarantee the products for one year so we need to be able to deliver the best quality," she says.

Monthly production is about 300,000 pairs. Manley requires a minimum order of 2,000 pairs per style, for delivery 45-60 days after receipt of L/C.

WRITTEN BY JANE PARRY


Pace Setters
Sports Shoes

WHILE shoes are made to withstand rough treatment, none are put through their paces more than sports footwear. These shoes have to perform well under stress, stay comfortable and support the body at its most active -- and they have to look good. Makers emphasise construction techniques and the trend towards hook-and-loop fastening rather than laces.

Shing On Plastic Shoe & Garment Industries Co, which has been making shoes since 1980, sells sports footwear to Europe, the US and South Africa. With a monthly production run of 400,000 pairs, the company is in a position to buy materials directly, such as suede from Argentina and PU from Taiwan, helping to keep costs under control.

"We are always looking for new suppliers," says manager Elton Chong. Coming up with new designs is vital, he says, and this is made easier by Shing On's own outsole factories. "We design our own outsoles or work with customers to develop theirs because we have two outsole factories that can specially make them as per the customer's design."

Typical prices range from US$4.60 to US$6.70 FOB Hong Kong per pair. Shing On supplies famous brands in overseas markets and has also established its own Bifeng and Yiluan brands in mainland China. Minimum order is one TEU, for delivery in 45-50 days.

Yasaki Int'l Co Ltd also has its own well-established brands -- the Yasaki brand has been on the market for 20 years and the Kamachi brand for more than a decade. Both are particularly strong in the Middle East, says export manager Cheryl Wong. "The Middle East is a big market for our sports footwear and accounts for 70% of sales. We have very long-standing business relationships there," she says.

Every year more than 50 new designs are created for each brand. The Yasaki line, with a price range of US$3-10 FOB Hong Kong per pair, is more conservative and simple, whereas the Kamachi line, at US$5-13, targets a younger, trendy market, Wong says.

Design changes have to be incorporated into every part of the shoe, especially the sole. "Usually we use a professional air outsole and the back of the outsole always has a special pattern," says Wong.

Careful attention to construction is essential for companies to succeed in the footwear industry. Juniper Shoes Fty (China) Ltd uses a special addition to its cement construction process. "We pay special attention to how the outsole and upper are connected. We have a new machine that glues them both on the inside and outside. Changing the design is easy, but construction is on the inside and it's an aspect of quality that you cannot see," says director Patrick Fuk.

The company sells sports footwear under customers' brands as well as its own Jumper brand, with prices ranging from US$4 to US$6 FOB Hong Kong per pair.

"We are now going a little bit higher quality than before and targeting the more mature markets, such as the US, Canada and Europe," Fuk says, adding that the company's ethic of offering customers reasonable prices, responsible management and professional expertise will help it in its bid to move into new markets. "Service, price and quality are the most important," he says.

Gold Union Footwear Ltd turns out up to 100,000 pairs of shoes a month, and sports footwear is an important part of the company's business. Prices range from US$5 to US$7 FOB Hong Kong per pair, and this year's collection includes some ultra-easy slip-on trainers, colourful models for children and casual shoes with a sporty feel.

Sports footwear has for a long time been heavy on decoration. Gold Union can decorate sports shoes in a variety of ways. "We're using reflective materials, high-frequency printing and heat-sealed transparent plastic. But looking forward, shoes are going back to a simpler look. Laces are not very convenient and Velcro and other fastenings will be the trend this year," says director Raymond Chiu.

It is not just adults who are discerning about design; the children's sector of the market is equally demanding. This year D&T Import and Export Co Ltd has come up with a lime green, navy blue and white children's model, which it hopes will be a hit with customers.

"Half our business is now in children's shoes and our strong points are quality and price," says director Crystal Du.

The company's main markets are Australia, Israel and Turkey, with typical prices ranging from US$3.70 (children's sports shoe KW092Y) to US$7.40 (men's sports shoe DR007M) FOB Hong Kong per pair.

WRITTEN BY JANE PARRY


All Laced Up
Children's Boots

BOOTS for children need to be practical but also colourful and stylish enough to appeal to both parents and tots. Hong Kong manufacturers produce a wide range of kids' boots, using materials such as PVC, EVA, nubuck, suede, rubber and nylon.

Article Ltd, for example, makes boots across the whole children's size range, from newborn to 34. Products include babies' booties with a TPR sole. Model ABA-2485 is a PVC and nubuck bootie with a four-hole lace-up design, selling for US$3.50 per pair FOB Hong Kong, based on the minimum order of 1,800 pairs. Two-hole lace-up bootie ABA-2259, priced at US$3.60 for a 1,800-pair order, is made of cowhide. Suede bootie 44/F-680 fastens with a hook-and-loop strap and sells for US$3.40, also for an order of 1,800 pairs.

Manufacture takes place at Article's 450-worker factory in Shenzhen, mainland China. Delivery takes 45-60 days after order confirmation.

The company has been in business since 1990, selling its products in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America. It has its own design team and produces goods under its own brand names Frog and Little Angel. "We have many styles and can manufacture across all children's sizes," says senior merchandiser Dan Choi. "The company's real strength is in its range."

Also established in 1990, Best Way Footwear Co Ltd makes a variety of children's boots both to customer specifications and under its own designs. "Quality is the key to our operations, and what makes us stand out from the crowd," says marketing manager Patrick Cheng. Best Way has an impressive list of well-known customers.

Children's EVA styles come in sizes 22-28 and 29-34. In the smaller range, model 283/812/23 is a three-colour, four-hole-laced ankle boot. More adult-looking designs in the larger sizes include model 293/821/22, a two-colour ankle boot with a small side zip and silver buckle, and model 281/821/22, a lace-up ankle boot with a one-material upper with trim. Prices vary between US$5 and US$6 per pair FOB Hong Kong, depending on the EVA material used.

The shoes are made in Best Way's factory in Zhongshan, on the mainland, which produces an average of 600,000 pairs per month. The minimum order is one TEU, for delivery 45 days after order confirmation.

"We have our own designs, but welcome those from our buyers," says Aries Lai, supervisor at Hua Hui Enterprise Co, which offers PVC and textile babies' shoes, ranging from US sizes 0 to 5. The company makes about 5,000 pairs of newborn shoes per month, exporting to customers in the US, Canada and Europe.

Styles use two or four eyelets (models C833 and C828, respectively), and come in one, two or three materials (C831, TF-3 and C828, respectively). The booties sell for about US$2.50 per pair FOB Hong Kong, depending on the materials. Manufacture takes place at Hua Hui's factory in Guangdong, on the mainland, and the minimum order is 2,000 pairs per style.

Cheerful colours typify Eastwood Int'l Ltd's children's boots for wet and snowy weather conditions. Rubber rain boot RB-5753 comes in a variety of bright shades. It sells for US$2.50 per pair FOB Hong Kong without a collar, and US$2.70 with. Snow boot SB-8300, made with padded nylon uppers and a furry lining, is priced at US$3.30 per pair.

Eastwood's boot sizes range from 22 to 28. The company has its own designers but can also make goods to order. "We use a big factory in [mainland] China that only produces these types of boot," says director KM Hung. "Because of this, we can guarantee our goods are of the highest quality."

Minimum order is one TEU. Delivery takes 6-8 weeks after order confirmation, although Hung points out that urgent orders can be shipped within four weeks.

Sun Sang Kong Yuen Shoes Fty Co Ltd also makes boots for older children, with sizes ranging from 24 to 31. The company has its own brand, Sunyuen, but most of its designs are on OEM terms. Materials include leather and PVC.

Several styles -- KYC 1009 (HK$30-40 per pair FOB Hong Kong), KC 193 (HK$32) and KC 992 (HK$30) -- are mid-ankle boots with either four or five eyelets. KC 1099 is a more fashion-conscious design, with a thicker platform sole and hook-and-loop fastening (HK$33).

Managing director Pang Yuk Por says that good factory management is the key to his business. "Quality control is tight, and production punctual. We are planning to move our factory to a new work site, and work towards ISO certification."

WRITTEN BY CAROLINE BIEBUYCK

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