5 Feb 2009
Treading Softly(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear, Vol 01,2009)
Splendid was one of the first Hong Kong footwear companies to set up a factory on the Chinese mainland some 37 years ago, recalls spokeswoman Camay Chow. "People might say that it is silly to open a new factory now, but we didn't feel we had any choice," she claims.
Ms Chow explains that the company's customers, especially in the US and the UK, look to factories that comply with certain regulations and standards. "We felt we needed a manufacturing facility in which they could have absolute confidence," she says.
Although much of Splendid's production will now move to the new facility, Ms Chow stresses that the existing factory in Shenzhen and two smaller plants in Xiamen will remain. "The new facility will employ 250 staff and enable us to focus on high-end products," she maintains.
Specialisation and a long-term commitment to regular customers are two reasons for the resilience of a company that has always concentrated on producing good-quality leather and textile indoor slippers, mostly on an OEM basis.
"Our main markets are the US and Australia," Ms Chow says. "At the moment we do only customer brands, but we plan in the future to develop our own brand to supply slippers to the domestic market in China."
Production capacity depends on styles - Splendid can produce 300,000 or more pairs of basic slippers per month while complicated orders cut output to about 100,000 pairs a month.
"We often have to take a minimum amount of textiles when we order fabric, so we always ask for orders of at least 1,500 pairs of each colour in the same material," Ms Chow explains.
Customers who don't want that amount can order existing factory stock or use material that can be easily obtained in the market.
"If a client requires very specific colours, we have to ask for the minimum," states Ms Chow.
FOB prices range from about US$1 for simple ballerina slippers to products in pure cashmere which can cost up to US$40 per pair. "Most materials are sourced in China," Ms Chow adds.
Lead time depends on the style. "For a basic, simple style we only need five weeks," Ms Chow avers.
"Leather products, where we have to allow time for the tanning process, take longer."
Customers sometimes send a swatch or an original sample from Italy or Spain, and Splendid will try to find as close a match as possible.
"People will often accept near matches because there is such a big price difference," Ms Chow admits.
Much of Splendid's production is to customer designs, but it also has its own in-house design team. "Quick production of samples is a company speciality," Ms Chow claims.
Splendid has resisted the temptation to diversify as the slipper business has served it well and will continue to do so.
"I'm optimistic about the future - slippers are a necessity and not a luxury for Western people," Ms Chow concludes.