14 Oct 2004
Hong Kong Leather Goods & Bags: Hong Kong Leather Goods & Bags
J & P Industrial Ltd
Bronte Mfg Co Ltd
Elegant, ornate evening bags encrusted with metal or rhinestones are a specialty of Bronte Mfg Co Ltd
Given a choice between quality and quantity, Bronte Mfg Co Ltd goes for quality every time and that's the way things are going to stay, according to manager Ricky Soong. "We can manage an output of around 25,000 pieces per month," he explains, adding, "we have to ensure quality."
Bronte, established in 1984, specialises in elegant, ornate evening bags - particularly metal- and rhinestone-encrusted bags that require a high degree of skilled workmanship.
Although the company originally manufactured in Hong Kong, it moved production to the Chinese mainland in 1990 to increase its capacity and now employs some 250 workers at its Dongguan factory.
"We have our own in-house design team, and we follow fashion trends closely," Soong explains. "We also have 20 years in the business, so often we already have ideas for seasonal collections."
However, he adds, OEM customers will sometimes bring their own designs for Bronte to make for them. "We have two or three customers who are still buying leather handbags so we offer them a small volume, but our main markets are the metal and stone items."
Bronte's concern with quality is exemplified in its choice of raw materials, which include brass imported from Japan and rhinestones supplied by world famous Austrian crystal company Swarovski.
"The cheapest bags are around US$7 each FOB Hong Kong, and the most expensive are approximately US$200 because of all the rhinestones," Soong reveals. "The demand for stone items has been quite good since the second half of 2000, and we now have a contract with Swarovski that has made our delivery times shorter."
Although the company established its reputation with OEM business, it is now working to establish its own two-year-old Boncara brand name through strategic partnerships with retailers.
"We are developing our brand in Hong Kong through the Chinese Arts and Crafts department store, while we have a joint venture partner in Australia and one customer in Indonesia who carries our brand name," Soong explains.
Bronte's OEM and ODM business is also flourishing worldwide, and many of the richly encrusted bags and purses seen at glittering parties around the world first see the light of day at the company's factory.
"At the moment our major markets are the US, Western Europe - Italy, Spain and the UK for example - and also Asia and the Middle East," Soong adds.
He says the American market is "pretty stable", so Bronte now wants to develop markets in Asia and Hong Kong.
"In Asia we are focused on Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia," Soong notes. "Japan is also quite good, and of course everybody is focused on the mainland."
Bronte knows it needs to be responsive to evolving conditions in all these markets, and in recent years has modified a number of its designs and product lines accordingly.
"Three or four years ago we adjusted the size of our handbags to fit the teenage market," Soong explains. "Before we were only making bags for the mature woman, but if we want to enlarge our business we have to focus on younger people, so we included small sizes and it seems to be going quite well."
He says that Bronte is "strong in stones" and will not hesitate to do anything that involves setting stones. "At the moment our turnover on the low-end and the expensive range is quite even, which is good for us," Soong adds.
Although quality control considerations put a ceiling on monthly production, Bronte is nevertheless capable of handling large orders, particularly now it has an increased supply of Swarovski stones on which it can call reliably.
Bronte also makes other small items that reflect the designs of its classic evening bags such as boxes, mirror compacts and picture frames that showcase the company's high standards of workmanship and attention-to-detail finishing.
"The price for a mirror case is US$5-6 each, and the picture frames are US$15 and up," Soong notes, adding that customers sometimes use them for promotions.
For example, it took an order for 20,000 bags from a Spanish customer before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, but more modest business is also welcome.
"Our minimum order value is US$5,000, although we can do orders for less with a 10% surcharge on the price," Soong says. "However we are flexible - the smallest order value we can manage is around US$2,000 for new customers."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Bronte Mfg Co Ltd
Flat B3, 10/F,
Yip Fung Ind Bldg,
28-36 Kwai Fung Crescent,
Kwai Chung, New Territories,
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