3 Aug 2007
Fit For Life(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 02,2007)
|Infants can start early in the fashion stakes with these trendy twin strap and lace-up shoes in girls' and boys' styles from WSBE Ltd|
Nothing is more important for growing feet than a good pair of shoes, which in these fashionable times must look cool as well as BE comfortable
Specialisation has always been the key to long-term success when it comes to making shoes that fit the ever-growing feet of babies and children.
Just ask veteran Hong Kong footwear makers such as Chi Shing Shoes Fty Ltd. "We are professionals in children's shoes, and our styles and outsoles are our secret weapon," claims manager Michael Choi, noting that Chi Shing has been specialising in California construction soles since 1992.
California construction needs to be done by hand so is not commonly employed among footwear manufacturers, says Choi, thereby giving Chi Shing an edge. "The technique requires some training, but the production capacity is very high once you have the right pattern and materials," he explains.
Chi Shing also offers cement construction soles and has the machinery to produce stitch-down soles at its 6,500-square-metre factory in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland.
Popular sellers in Europe, the US and Australia are the firm's classic Mary-Jane and T-strap styles for babies and children, available in European sizes 19-35.
They are made of PU from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan or leather from Korea. "We also hold a licence to produce and export Disney- and Warner- brand shoes to Europe," adds Choi.
Infants' shoes include handmade stitch and turn soft soles suited to toddlers mastering the art of walking, while children's shoes have either TPR or PVC soles.
Prices for infants' shoes average US$3 per pair ex-Hong Kong or Shenzhen and children's shoes are US$4-5 per pair, based on minimum orders of 3,000 pairs delivered 50 days after order confirmation.
Meanwhile, former slipper maker Sun Lik Shoes & Metal Co Ltd fell into making children's shoes after a big customer ordered kids' shoes in 1992, relates development manager Venus Li.
She says that today classic and casual children's and infants' footwear comprise the lion's share of business. "About 30% is children's shoes, starting from US size 4 up to junior 5, about 50% is infants' shoes from US size 0-3, and the rest is ballet shoes and slippers," explains Li.
The 27-year-old company's monthly production averages 250,000 pairs of shoes a month made under OEM terms for famous brands and department stores in Europe - especially the UK and Italy - and the US.
About 60% of Sun Lik's shoes are made of leather, while the remainder utilise fabric, PU or PVC materials, all sourced from the Chinese mainland - although higher-grade leather comes from Korea.
Popular styles include lined infants' boots in suede with faux sheepskin, and stylish infants' trainers in two-tone nubuck leather - all made with stitch and turn soles.
FOB Hong Kong prices for infants' shoes range from US$2-6 per pair while children's shoes are US$5-12 per pair, depending on the materials used.
A minimum order from Sun Lik's 1,200-worker factory in Dongguan on the mainland is 3,000 pairs per style and colour, delivered 90 days after order confirmation.
Long-time children's shoe specialist Lap Ko Shoes Mfrs Ltd was one of the first to target the sector in 1989, recalls spokeswoman Joanne Wong. "Manufacturers at that time were only interested in men's and women's shoes, but now the children's sector is very competitive," she says.
The firm produces about 100,000 pairs a month of babies' and children's shoes, sandals and boots for export to Italy, Germany, the UK and Japan.
"Quality is important, as is fast sample-making and quick responses," Wong advises. "You also need to give customers lots of choice to survive in a tough market."
The bulk of Lap Ko's children's shoes, which are made for OEM customers, comprise PU or fabric uppers with TPR soles (or non-slip PU dots for babies' styles).
They are produced at its 100,000-square-foot, 300-worker factory in Guangdong Province, along with the firm's own Jocosa brand, launched in the French market two years ago and now accounting for about 10% of business.
An in-house design team releases 30-50 "trendy and casual" designs a month in PU made to resemble different textures such as metallic, croco and the distressed look. Sizes cater for babies from birth to one year old - European sizes 16-22 - and for children aged 2-9 years (European sizes 23-36).
Styles include metallic PU upper ballerina shoes decorated with sequins, beads and diamonds, and a girl's sandal featuring a nappa PU and metallic PU upper with hook-and-loop strap and a PU lining and insole. Both models have cemented TPR outsoles.
Prices are generally in the US$1.50-2.00 per pair FOB Hong Kong for infants' shoes and US$2.50-7.00 for children's shoes, with minimum orders of 1,200 pairs per style and colour delivered 60 days after order confirmation.
Lap Ko intends to focus on improving the quality of its shoes and expanding its markets by attending trade fairs. "We'll also keep pushing our Jocosa brand, which has been well-received by customers in France, and spread it to other countries in Europe," reveals Wong.
Clearly, buyers around the globe looking to keep growing feet well-shod should never forget that Hong Kong's children's shoe manufacturers are expert at measuring, fitting and meeting their needs.
TEXT BY HELEN WONG
Chi Shing Shoes Fty Ltd
Unit L, 31/F, Blk 1
Vigor Ind Bldg
49-53 Ta Chuen Ping St
Kwai Chung, New Territories
Sun Lik Shoes & Metal Co Ltd
Harbour Crystal Centre
100 Granville Rd
Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon
Sunbo (HK) Ltd
Units 5-7, 22/F
China Merchants Steam Navigation Bldg
152-155 Connaught Rd Central