27 Oct 2008
Green Gear(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 04,2008)
A deep concern for the environment is one of the founding principles of Hugger Gear Mfg Ltd, according to Business Development Manager Terence Yip.
"The philosophy of Hugger Bags is simple - everybody needs a hug, and Hugger bags feel like a hug," Mr Yip declares. "Not only that, the bag hugs the laptop on the inside and the environment on the outside."
The company was established in 2005 to manufacture a variety of bags under the Hugger brand name, although its principals already had many years of experience in the luggage industry as OEM/ODM suppliers.
"We are now focused on the Hugger brand name, and are looking for distributors all over the world," Mr Yip says. "We want to focus on this brand before developing sub brands, although we may look at that in the future."
The Hugger brand originates from Liverpool in the UK, where it was founded by a designer named Ho Jo who decided later in his bag career that Hong Kong was the place to establish his worldwide headquarters.
As a result, Hugger is now based in Hong Kong and manufactures at a factory in Shenzhen, on the Chinese mainland, where it employs 300 workers.
The company's staff also benefit from the Hugger philosophy, which maintains that providing exemplary working conditions is another important element of corporate commitment to doing business ethically and responsibly.
"We have implemented an internal system that ensures our workers are protected and can enjoy a comfortable and safe working environment," Mr Yip insists. "Our factory does not hire child labour, young labour or forced labour and provides a non-discriminatory environment."
Hugger also takes adequate precautions to prevent accidents and injury and offers a higher salary than the industry norm, he says. "We have always manufactured in China," Mr Yip explains. "We have our own team of designers from the UK."
Exports at present go mostly to EU countries and, while the company also does some business with the US, Canada and China, Asia looms large in Mr Yip's plans.
"We started our marketing in Asia this year," he notes. "We have distributors in Indonesia and Malaysia, intend going into Korea and Japan and are looking to build sales channels in China."
Hugger manufactures an extensive range of colourful, fashionable laptop bags, including totes, backpacks, cases and executive cases, while messenger and travel bags are also successful Hugger product lines.
High-quality production using materials that are friendly to the environment is a Hugger priority. "All the materials we use are non-toxic and high quality with a high degree of water resistance," Mr Yip maintains.
He says Hugger uses high-quality polyester and nylon, importing the materials from Asia. "Our materials have also passed the SGS eco test, so we are able to say that we are truly green."
That said, Hugger eschews PVC, which Mr Yip claims is the most environmentally damaging of all plastics. "All stages of the PVC lifecycle result in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals that build up in the water we drink and the air we breathe, as well as contaminating the human food chain," he says.
Thousands of tonnes of PVC have been used for decades in the past as the common backing material for fabrics used in bags and luggage, but Hugger nylon materials are PVC, AZO dye and chloro free.
The company's production processes involve no dioxins, heavy metals, phthalate pollution, ozone-depleting substances or dye dispersal and comply with the latest European environmental regulations.
Turnaround time on orders depends on size, complexity and whether or not Hugger has current inventory of the relevant products or material.
"It takes about 30-40 days to import the material and about 30 days for production, so our lead times are 60-75 days," Mr Yip explains. "Our minimum order is 500 pieces per model per colour, but we have handled orders for 50,000-100,000 pieces of different models."
He adds that FOB Hong Kong unit prices for Hugger bags start at US$9-10 and go up to US$15-20, positioning them as mid-range to high-end products.
At present the company is working hard to put Hugger on the map internationally by finding new distributors through print advertising and participation in major trade shows such as CeBit 2008, the Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Spring Edition), the Hong Kong Summer Sourcing Show, IFA 2008 Consumer Electronics and the Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Autumn Edition).
"We intend to focus on the design and quality of the bags rather than the marketing," Mr Yip concludes. "Consumers are very concerned with environmental responsibility and we want our bags to feel so comfortable that people want to hug them."
TEXT BY ROBERT PIERCE