11 July 2008
Top of the class(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 03,2008)
Starting the academic year with a new school bag is an annual rite for millions of schoolchildren the world over
Replacing a worn old school bag with a bright, shiny new satchel is a sure-fire way to get youngsters keen and eager to begin the new academic year.
However, school bags have come a long way from the basic gear of yesteryear, and today's schoolkids demand attractive products that can provide dependable storage for books, stationery and, increasingly, laptop computers.
Hang Lung (Lee's) Mfg Co Ltd is one of many Hong Kong manufacturers meeting that demand with durable, personal bags and carriers in a wide array of styles that it exports to Europe and the US, as well as within Asia.
The company has endeavoured to stay top of the class over the past three decades by being responsive to market trends, Marketing Manager Gordon Ma claims.
"For example, there is more demand for a secure and well-positioned space for a laptop computer inside school bags," he observes. "Laptops are now almost as much a part of school life as pencil cases, so we're manufacturing more products with a laptop space."
Mr Ma adds that the trend is for bags that are a "little bit" bigger. "Shoulder-slung, messenger-style bags are increasingly popular," he notes. "We also offer different colour schemes for spring and autumn, and are using more energetic colours in general".
Model HL-22008, a rugged yet stylish backpack designed to hold stacks of school books is typical of the output of a company that prides itself on its design skills.
"Our strong design team and sample room enable us to respond effectively to any enquiry," Mr Ma claims. "Of course, customers' own designs are also welcome."
He is upbeat about the market potential, noting that more and more students are now the owners of as many as four school bags. "Like modern consumers anywhere, they like giving themselves choices so there is more room for growth," Mr Ma believes. "But the market remains very competitive - it's still expanding, but slowly."
Another company that sees the value of energetic colours is Topbo Industrial Ltd, whose 600D polyester school backpack model TB-2571 is a riot of appealing colours with a floral theme.
Managing Director Peter Lam says the company produces a wide range of bags, from backpacks to computer bags, which are shipped to a variety of international markets including Portugal and Russia. "We can do any kind of colour scheme that is requested of us, depending on availability of materials," he insists.
However, Mr Lam says that not all buyers want school bags in energetic colours. "Traditional colours such as navy blue, dark grey or black remain popular, because dirt shows up more clearly on lighter-coloured school bags," he observes.
Mr Lam adds that Topbo is willing to lower its 5,000-unit minimum order if necessary. "For example, we can reduce the minimum order to approximately 2,000 pieces for larger bags," he explains. "The minimum order is related to the size of the bag, and we aim to be as accommodating as we can for clients."
Colour is just as important to Billion Channel Trading Ltd, which proudly says that it can deliver minimum orders of 300 of its school bags in any hue. "We want our products to enhance that fresh-start feeling," enthuses Director Pong Lai.
He adds that Billion Channel has developed a school bag with two key features that buyers and parents are bound to find reassuring. "The white shoulder strap is made out of a reflective material to enhance the safety of the user, especially while crossing busy streets on the way to or from school," Mr Pong explains. "The bottom of the bag is made out of easy-to-clean PVC, so that any spills from a lunch box for example can be hygienically and easily wiped up."
Lunch box spillage is an enduring hazard but rather more costly in today's digital era is the possibility of a student losing a mobile phone or MP3 player.
Ta Shun Industrial (HK) Co Ltd has addressed this potential problem by providing additional features on its nylon and polyester backpack-style school bags to secure digital devices safely.
"This is very important to today's younger generation," says Senior Sales Executive Chris Lo. "By being mindful of new needs and adding features such as this, we've been able enjoy good business in what is a competitive but huge market."
Regardless of the manufacturer, however, some things don't change, with primary school pupils generally requiring backpacks while secondary school students opt for a variety of bag styles such as satchels.
Either way, Hong Kong manufacturers are constantly busy, ensuring that schoolchildren all over the world start the year with school bags that really are top of the class.
TEXT BY JACOB WOLFE