27 Oct 2008
Classy Carriers(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 04,2008)
An unswerving commitment to quality has allowed Creative Travelware Ltd to maintain a competitive edge in the demanding luggage design and manufacturing business since its factory opened in Fujian in 1989.
"This is a difficult time in the marketplace, but we have 20 years' experience and are quite stable," says Manager William Lau, adding that the company is currently making a range of items for several famous international brands and is also undertaking work for customers on the Chinese mainland. "Our quality is good, so business is quite okay."
Creative Travelware's vision has been remarkably consistent throughout its history, initial plans having focused on high-volume manufacturing at a high quality level. "We bought the land and built the factory in 1989," Mr Lau advises. "That gives us complete control over all aspects of the production process."
The company's factory occupies 40,000 square metres of industrial land in an area known for the expertise of its workers in the skills necessary for luggage manufacturing.
The complex includes a canteen, dormitory and sports facilities for the 500-plus workers, as well as modern workshops and production lines equipped with the latest technology.
In all, 15,000 square metres of industrial space are spread over 10 floors, allowing the factory to produce more than 100,000 units of luggage per month.
Production facilities are, however, only part of the story as Mr Lau stresses that quality luggage starts with the raw materials. "We use mainly polyester and nylon, which we source mostly in China," he explains. "We also bring in some materials from Taiwan and Korea."
Creative Travelware specialises in trolley bags, duffle bags, backpacks, business cases, shopping trolleys, laptop bags and "leather look" holdalls.
Mr Lau says the company develops products for customers every season. "Generally, they supply us with sketches, photos and ideas and we work with them to develop them," he explains. "They want our opinions, so it's a co-operative process."
Many customers have been with Creative Travelware for more than 10 or even 15 years. "We have also some newer customers in Europe, particularly among the supermarkets and department stores," Mr Lau adds.
Creative Travelware's major markets are Europe, the US, Asia and the Chinese mainland, with the latter in particular holding particularly strong growth potential thanks to the rapid development of an appreciation for manufacturing quality.
"Quality is the number one consideration as far as we are concerned, because we use good materials and have a high level of manufacturing expertise," Mr Lau insists.
He says the company doesn't compete on the basis of low pricing but on the quality and durability of its luggage. "We do deliver value though," he maintains. "You can't compete with us on price at our quality level - though obviously prices must be reasonable."
Mr Lau cites customer confidentiality in refusing to name any of the "world famous" brands that buy direct from the Fujian factory. "However, we are always willing to undertake OEM/ODM work for clients who appreciate features such as the durable attractive linings and recessed handles and wheels on our trolley cases," he adds.
Handy touches such as these have always been an important part of Creative's mode of operation, together with R&D, and proven designs are constantly being reviewed and upgraded.
"Our minimum order is 600 pieces, and it usually takes two months to turn an order around," Mr Lau says, adding that the factory has handled orders for more than 100,000 bags or cases. "FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$10-30 per bag."
Not surprisingly, given the company's quality ethos, Creative Travelware has developed its own branded luggage range. "We have our own Advance brand name, which we intend to register in China and have already used in Europe for orders from customers in the UK and Switzerland," Mr Lau confides, adding that the firm has been building the brand for more than 10 years.
Expanding its customer base within China and internationally with or without its own brand forms a major part of Creative Travelware's plan for functioning through challenging times.
The future, Mr Lau believes, lies in boosting productivity without compromising the company's high product standards. "Customer service is fundamental," Mr Lau concludes, stressing that Creative Travelware works "extremely closely" with clients.
"Business will be more and more challenging as material, labour, and production costs keep increasing, but we will maintain quality levels and ensure our products remain value for money".
TEXT BY ROBERT PIERCE