11 Feb 2004
Comfort first(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 01,2004)
Vol 1, 2004
|Taizin Co Ltd manufactures mostly for customers in North America and Europe, and has also established a healthy niche in South America|
A firm emphasis on comfort and quality has served Taizin Co Ltd well since the firm was established as a trading company in 1988. Quick to recognise the fact that the future lay in manufacturing on the Chinese mainland, the fledgling organisation soon established Quanzhou Citishoes Mfg Co Ltd in Fujian Province.
The manufacturing facility makes and sells mostly sports and casual shoes, according to Taizin general manager Benjamin Carlson Chan. "We have two production lines and employ between 650 and 700 workers who manufacture about 150,000 pairs per month," he explains.
Taizin handles the financial aspects of the operation from Hong Kong, but every other function, including R&D, design, packaging, barcoding and marketing is centralised on the mainland.
The company manufactures mostly for customers in North America and Europe, although it is beginning to focus more on other markets and has established a healthy niche in South America.
"We would like to expand more in Asia, which we haven't really concentrated on so far, and have recently picked up some customers in Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore," Chan reveals. "Sports shoes and casual shoes are also very popular in South America."
Taizin supplies chain and department stores in its core markets - with OEM shoes under brand names such as Dunlop and with its own Raker brand, which has established a reputation for both stylishness and durability.
"Customers sometimes like the design of our logo so they'll opt for that, while some South American customers, as in Chile, also use our brand," Chan notes.
"Our shoes have their own characteristics and basically we start from comfort - for example, where some manufacturers might use straightforward nubuck we use stretchable nubuck."
Yet while some customers insist on the highest standards of comfort and styling, others in less developed markets are more concerned with keeping down costs and ask for cheaper materials.
As a result, Taizin's FOB Hong Kong prices per pair range from US$3.50-9.00 depending on materials, costs and styling. "Most of our materials we source domestically on the mainland, but some special materials we have to import from Taiwan or other countries," Chan adds. "We develop more than 100 styles per month - about 50% of them are from our customers and the other 50% are our own creations."
Not all of those styles, which are either drawn by hand or developed by Computer Aided Design techniques, are ever manufactured, but Chan stresses the importance of constantly coming up with new ideas and delivering them quickly.
"Normally it takes between two weeks and one month to deliver a shipment and it must be by air freight," he observes. "If you go by sea the shoes will be out of fashion - the trends are very fast."
Currently the company, which has traditionally produced lace-up shoes, is making more slip-ons - a trend that has recently emerged and which Chan believes may last for the next couple of years.
He conducts market research by attending trade fairs and exhibitions and working closely with customers who have the pulse of the market in their particular area.
"The US and South America are completely different markets with different weather and cultures," Chan explains. "Plus people like dark colours in the winter and brighter and lighter colours in the summer so we use cow suede in winter, while in the summer people prefer mesh and better ventilation."
There is, however, a global trend towards wearing sports shoes as casual multipurpose footwear, which is fuelling the company's growth as Chan believes people are demanding better quality, longer-lasting shoes appropriate to a wide range of leisure activities.
"Styling is tending towards a more casual, leisurely image rather than a straight sports look," he maintains, noting that the company received received an order for more than 250,000 pairs of casual shoes.
"Some customers might go for a small order to help them sell and buy more efficiently so we cooperate with them - we also have have 500 pair orders."
Although fierce competition tends to squeeze profit margins in the footwear industry the company - which early this year received ISO 9001:2000 certification - is sticking with its comfort and quality formula. "It's very competitive for everybody, but we are expanding and I think this year we may grow by 15-20%," Chan predicts.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Taizin Co Ltd
Rm 705, Fortress Tower,
250 King's Rd, Hong Kong
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