16 Jan 2006
Tip Top Training(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 01,2006)
Clifford (H.K.) Co
Clifford (H.K.) Co targets the Chinese mainland with its Bogg and ReBo brands while Flame is aimed at a global audience
"We set up our factory in Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland in 1995 because land and labour costs were reasonable, but then we had to train the workers," he recalls.
The company found an ingenious solution to the problem, using Hong Kong labour as a teaching team and establishing a small production line so the mainland workforce could gain experience.
"It took around six months and a lot of resources, but skilled labour is essential for this work," Lum maintains, adding that Clifford still puts a lot of resources into training.
This careful approach is a result of the Lum family's extensive experience in the leather goods and gifts and premiums businesses, with a stable of companies that includes 45-year-old Honkee Leather, Flame Time, Excellence Crystal, TL Toys and TLC Printing.
Such a close-knit network gives Clifford access to other manufacturing facilities on the mainland, although Lum says most work is carried out at the company's own Guangdong Province plant that employs around 400 workers.
"There are synergies between the family businesses," Lum believes. "Printing and packaging work complements the leather goods manufacturing well."
First and foremost, however, Clifford focuses on quality design and manufacturing, having been established to make lifestyle products that are both elegant and functional.
"We specialise in producing tabletop items, and also in developing fashionable and elegantly designed leather items, which emphasise simple yet stylish design in an innovative way," Lum claims. "Our target is to create affordable lovely and modern lifestyle products for customers who appreciate design as an element of their life."
The company originally made briefcases and leather handbags before developing new areas of specialisation in organisers and stationery sets.
"We also do photo frames, boxes and wallets," Lum says, adding that Clifford also employs PVC, nylon or PU, or mix-and-match combinations depending on the fashion.
"We also use straw matched with leather to create natural products, like straw bags," he explains. "We range from high fashion to traditional style products."
Leather is sourced mostly on the mainland, where Lum believes quality has improved dramatically in recent years, although Clifford continues to use Italian leather for top-end items. "The choice of leather depends on client preference and budget," he adds.
FOB prices are determined by material costs, with cheaper handbags priced from US$5 FOB Hong Kong while higher-cost items go up to around US$50. "Small items range between US$2-10," Lum notes.
Clifford can produce more than 30,000 bags and approximately 100,000 smaller items per month for delivery 45-60 days after order confirmation.
"Sometimes material preparation can take a long time and a lot of leather products have to be done by hand, but normally 60 days is enough," Lum advises.
Business is conducted worldwide, but the company is particularly strong in North America, Europe and Japan, with the latter market demanding more expensive leather.
"We produce fashion bags, so we have to come up with about 20-30 new designs per month," Lum explains, adding that Clifford has three designers who are also involved in the production process to ensure quality control.
Business is largely OEM/ODM, and includes work for a number of internationally known names that Lum prefers to keep confidential. "We are now developing our own brands - namely Flame, Bogg and ReBo," he says.
Flame is an international brand, but the others are only used on the mainland, where Clifford is developing a market niche. "There is still a preference for famous brand names on the mainland and we need to establish ourselves," Lum observes.
This year will see significant changes at Clifford's Chinese mainland factory, but Lum is adamant that high quality workmanship by hand will continue to define the company's style.
"Right now we have four production lines and we plan to establish a fifth devoted to stationery goods," he reveals, adding that Clifford has a designer who is "very gifted" in that area.
"We plan to invest in more machinery, but the key is training the workers as there are so many things machines can't do and skilled workers are very important."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Clifford (H.K.) Co