1 Jan 2002
Straw Dreams(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 01,2002)
Wing Hing Straw & Wicker Products Fty
|In switching to fashion bags from more traditional styles, Wing Hing Straw & Wicker Products Fty has unleashed an array of fresh colours.|
MOST children dream of what they will do as adults, but only a lucky few make the dreams come true. One person who has succeeded is Judy Cheung, director of Wing Hing Straw & Wicker Products Fty.
Cheung made straw bags and mats as a child. In 1987, her hobby inspired the creation of a business. Initially a trading enterprise, Wing Hing in 1991 started manufacturing straw bags, baskets and hats for women and children.
Four years ago, the company diversified into beaded bags on a trial basis. Now beaded bags account for 80% of production. "I showed a few workers how to make them. They duplicated them and from there we grew," recalls Cheung.
Unlike most Hong Kong manufacturers, much of Wing Hing's production takes place in homes rather than in a factory. More than 5,000 housewives on the Chinese mainland participate in creating a monthly output valued at US$50,000-100,000.
"We factory-train the women for two weeks. Then they each complete a sample piece for us in the factory. If it is good, they can take work home," says Cheung.
The company's 600-square-metre factory in Guangzhou in Guangdong Province and a larger one in the northern mainland city of Qingdao employ only 50 and 80 full-time staff members respectively. Cheung deliberately chose Qingdao as a factory location since it is her hometown, whereas the southern Guangdong Province is a traditional site for Hong Kong factories.
"In the past, we produced traditional styles. Now we create mostly fashion bags," says Cheung. The change arose from shortening market lifespans.
The company's five designers have switched from using mainly black to fresh, sharp colours. Products reflecting this sharper palette include a single-compartment raffia bag with a blue-and-green pattern, sporty pink beads and a PU strap, priced at US$5 FOB Hong Kong. Another beaded model with satin lining is blue, white, green and yellow to resemble patches of animal skin and costs US$10.
Straw is sourced from the Chinese mainland and the Philippines. Suppliers provide beads from Japan, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
A new Japanese-made embroidery machine purchased in Shanghai has inspired an expanded product range. Straw bags with beads and embroidery will soon account for 20% of production. "Our company is one of the few making bags that combine these three materials," says Cheung.
Wing Hing "started with straw, and we will always continue making straw bags", but Cheung plans to raise the output of purely beaded bags. Some of the increase is targeted at Japan and Singapore. "We want to open these markets. We hope 20-30% of our products will be sold there by late 2002," she says.
Leading markets for the company's beaded bags are the US and the Middle East. Wing Hing's straw bags go mainly to the US and Europe.
Wing Hing Straw & Wicker Products Fty
Grand Supersac Co Ltd
|Liberal use of the company name and exciting new designs give Grand Supersac Co Ltd a competitive edge for its widening product range.|
The Grand Supersac name appears all over the company's products from zippers to side pockets. Why? "This is how we successfully compete against imitator-manufacturers from the Chinese mainland. We cannot make our products simple," says managing director Grand Lee.
Another vital strategy is to keep all designs new and exciting. The company has fresh styles hitting the market every two months, with a maximum number released in late spring so backpackers can hike happily all summer.
Relying on 30 years' experience, Lee personally designs most of the products, often turning for inspiration to European styles. With backpacks, he stresses functionality.
"Initially, we produced basic styles with one compartment and a zip pocket. Now you need many accessories," says Lee. The main compartments in many Grand Supersac products are intended for laptop computers.
One model is a canvas backpack designed to carry a laptop computer and accessories, a calculator, pencils and a mobile phone. Weighing 1.1kg, this US$6.05 FOB Hong Kong item has heavy stitching and a zipper that allows 5cm expansion.
Another style with the same carrying capacity is a waterproof stone-washed cotton-canvas backpack with twill trim and 210 nylon lining. Weighing 0.5kg and priced at US$4 FOB Hong Kong, this leisure-style creation is suitably named Lifestyle. In addition it has a side pocket to tuck away CD earphones. Equipped with cotton-hair straps, the bag is available in dark gray, khaki or black.
Zippers are the only components that are outsourced. Grand Supersac keeps a close watch on its main material by securing canvas directly from South Korea. Other materials arrive through a network of 10 suppliers.
Recently, the company adjusted its production and marketing. The Chinese mainland's entry to the World Trade Organization and easing quotas on US-bound products have prompted Grand Supersac to actively pursue this market. Although Europe is Grand Supersac's main market, Turkey, Chile and Mexico are all priority destinations for its mid-range products.
The company's factory in Zhongshan on the Chinese mainland has acquired new Japan-made Singer sewing machines and increased its workforce to 1,200 workers. "By doubling our staff numbers and enhancing our machinery, we hope to double our output," says Lee. Monthly production is now 215,000 pieces.
Part of the increase will involve ladies' bags, expected to reach 25% of output by late 2002. Wallets are also available, although most are sold to department stores.
Despite backpacks remaining Grand Supersac's focus, this expansion is part of the company's strategy to supply customers with full lines rather than individual items, Lee says.
WRITTEN BY TAMARA CHEUNG
Grand Supersac Co Ltd
Units 5-6, 29/F,
Laws Commercial Plaza,
788 Cheung Sha Wan Road,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
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