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Imported Chinese Tools Dominate at First Vietnamese Hardware Expo

With local consumers clearly familiar with Chinese brands, mainland manufacturers were out in force for the first Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo, with many optimistic that a rally in the energy sector would ensure future demand.

Photo: The Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo: Hoping to capitalise on a surge in demand in the sector.
The Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo: Hoping to capitalise on a surge in demand in the sector.
Photo: The Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo: Hoping to capitalise on a surge in demand in the sector.
The Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo: Hoping to capitalise on a surge in demand in the sector.

Vietnam's hardware and hand-tools sector is on the verge of considerable expansion, with many in the country keen to purchase advanced hand-tool products for both industrial and daily household use. This, then, was perhaps an apt time for the launch of the Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo.

Among the exhibitors at this inaugural event was Ngo Duc Khon, a Sales Manager for Khon Nguyen Vietnam, a local distributor of Chinese-made industrial scissors, kitchen shears, and fabric-cutting equipment. Explaining his company's interest in attending the event, he said: "We want to show Vietnamese people that there are other tools they can use besides those that they have favoured for years."

Khon Nguyen carries more than 100 types of Chinese-made scissors and shears, and maintains their country of origin is not a big issue among local consumers. Given this apparent acceptance of mainland manufacturing standards, it was perhaps unsurprising that quite so many Chinese exhibitors had made the trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

Another importer of mainland products was Tran Nguyen Huynh, a Ho Chi Minh City-based company that has the exclusive Thailand distribution rights to the Baldor air compressor range, specifically endorsed by the Chinese government for its adherence to high standards of quality. Commenting on the popularity of the products, Nguyen Ngoc Trung, a Sales Supervisor with the company, said: "There is a big market for these items in Vietnam, particularly in the industrial, textile and agriculture sectors. The Vietnamese government also supports imports from China, so there is a good flow of mainland products here."

Overall, Nguyen confessed himself satisfied with the number of Vietnamese buyers that had expressed interest in his company's range of products during the four-day exhibition, despite the fact that the brand is relatively new to the local market. Explaining the appeal of these particular air compressors, he said: "Quality is never an issue with Baldor products, as the company has all the necessary certifications in place."

As well as Chinese imports, a number of European brands were also looking to make inroads into Vietnam, a development spurred by the continual growth of the country's oil and gas sector. One beneficiary of this has been the Minh Khang Equipment Corporation, a Ho Chi Minh City-based distributor of German, Dutch and Japanese industrial and hand tools.

Reflecting on the growth of Vietnam's energy sector, Ngoc Phuoc, a Project Pursuit Officer with the company, said: "The oil and gas industry has been our biggest market in Vietnam, with customers in this sector requiring high-quality tools, something we pride ourselves on providing.

"Vietnamese industries rely on foreign tools because nothing of this kind is manufactured locally – every tool in Vietnam is imported. Although the oil and gas sector is slowing down, the need for tools continues to grow. Over the next few years, we expect to see increased demand for our products with the gas sector expected to rally before too long."

Photo: Overseas woodworking machinery.
Overseas woodworking machinery.
Photo: Overseas woodworking machinery.
Overseas woodworking machinery.
Photo: Imports only: Vietnam produces no power tools.
Imports only: Vietnam produces no power tools.
Photo: Imports only: Vietnam produces no power tools.
Imports only: Vietnam produces no power tools.

Among the brands carried by Minh Khang are Bega Special Tools, Equalizer International, Matador Schraubwerkzeuge, Betex, Posilock Pullers, Vogel Germany and Volkel.

Similarly optimistic as to prospects in the Vietnamese market was Chung Kien Ban, Manager of Nhat Phong, a Vietnamese distributor of several imported hand-tool brands, including Bondhus, Hex*Pro, ChannelLock and Irega. Looking to the future, he said: "We expect our business to continue to grow as more companies and foreign corporations establish manufacturing and assembly plants in Vietnam."

Ban's upbeat sentiment was matched by Nguyen Khac Luan, General Director of Vinexad, the company behind the launch of the new exhibition. He said: "With an increasing number of overseas companies coming in and establishing manufacturing and assembly plants, a host of new opportunities has been created for local hardware and hand-tools suppliers."

Another exhibitor banking on Vietnam's growing manufacturing and assembly sector was KPR Singapore, a supplier of safety boots and industrial footwear. According to Ray Tan, the company's Overseas Market Manager, demand for footwear and safety boots in Vietnam has soared in recent years largely due to strict new workplace safety regulations.

Seemingly confident as to his own company's likely success, he said: "We are a well-known specialist in the safety footwear sector, with a reputation for good-quality products and punctual delivery. We already have distributors in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore and aim to be the market leader across the region."

In addition to hand tools, a wide range of machinery was also on display throughout the exhibition site, including several woodworking machines imported by Thuong Nguyen. The Ho Chi Minh City company has imported wood-processing equipment from Taiwan for 15 years, including wood-cutting machines, saws, planers, drills, chisel machines, milling machines, sanding machines and slicing machines.

Sharing his take on the typical Vietnamese purchaser, Sales Manager Bui Thi Hau said: "Our customers are looking for ways to streamline their operations and automate their processes. They are in the market for high-quality, affordable machines and a reliable after-sales service."

Dipping its toe into the local market for the first time was Puma Industrial, a Taiwanese firm attending the show as a way of evaluating the level of interest in its range of air compressors. Given the existing success the company has had in the Philippines and several other Asian markets, Sales Manager Frank Hsu was optimistic that it would find a niche in Vietnam.

He said: "We are primarily here to look for distributors and to test the market. We have concerns, though, that Vietnamese customers are more focussed on price than on quality. While they may be looking for cheap products, what we are offering is high quality."

As with a number of other exhibitors, Hsu confessed himself to be unthreatened by the heavy Chinese presence at the show, believing his company's products could more than compete in terms of both quality and reliability.

THK Powertools (VN), the local subsidiary of a Singapore-based manufacturing group, meanwhile, was looking to niche markets as a way of growing its business. Explaining its approach, Nguyen Van Thanh, the company's Sales and Marketing Manager, said: "We focus on local farmers and agricultural companies and offer imported chainsaws, as well as a full line of outdoor power tools – blowers, trimmers, and brush cutters.

"With Vietnam still largely an agricultural country, we are confident that demand for farm equipment and agricultural tools will only continue to expand for the foreseeable future."

Photo: Can European and US brands succeed in wooing cost-conscious Vietnamese purchasers?
Can European and US brands succeed in wooing cost-conscious Vietnamese purchasers?
Photo: Can European and US brands succeed in wooing cost-conscious Vietnamese purchasers?
Can European and US brands succeed in wooing cost-conscious Vietnamese purchasers?

The Vietnam Hardware and Hand Tools Expo 2016 was held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center in Ho Chi Minh City from 30 November-3 December. More than 50 exhibitors from 17 countries and territories attended the four-day event.

Geoff de Freitas, Special Correspondent, Ho Chi Minh City

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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