1 Feb 2001
WELL ON TRACK(HKTDC Fashion - Footwear,2001)
WELL ON TRACK
BACK TO BASICS
SHOES Unlimited (Far East) Corpn Ltd, like many of the youngsters wearing its products, has wide interests. The company specializes in OEM work on children's hi-tech sports shoes, children's cartoon-character and casual shoes, girls' fashion, casual and sports shoes.
Established in 1999, Shoes Unlimited has created another firm, Shoes Unlimited (Dongguan) Corpn on the Chinese mainland. The latter operates a 13,800-square-foot sample room and similar-sized offices with 28 computer terminals linked to the company's main servers in Hong Kong.
From the beginning, Shoes Unlimited's strategy was to sub-contract its production. The company works with 10 factories on the Chinese mainland.
"Normally, sales and quality-control departments work for the customers' benefit, whereas the production department has the manufacturer's interests at heart. Sub-contracting production means we avoid this conflict. Expert technicians monitor production for us according to a strict quality-assurance system," says Shoes Unlimited managing director Philip Wong.
The company is keen to use the most efficient and effective way to service customers. "We understand they are concerned with knowing when their orders will be ready and shipped, what stage production is at, or when and by whom their orders are being processed," says Wong.
As a result, Shoes Unlimited is investing in Web-based customer-relationship management and supply-chain management systems. "These will enable our customers to keep track of their orders via the Web in the same way as courier-delivered packages," says Wong.
Customers will be able to log on with a password to check the precise status of their orders at any time. These systems, together with an online catalogue, should be up and running this spring.
Similarly, the company believes in using creative ideas in technology when designing shoes. "We are committed to implementing the latest technology for our engineers and technicians. By continuously improving the technology we use, we can serve customers better," says Wong.
He believes the company's strength lies in design. "We have a creative design concept and supply excellent samples. Creative ideas and knowing the market are the most important features of any company wishing to succeed in the shoe industry," he says.
Main markets are in Europe and Latin America. Shoes Unlimited intends to visit major trade shows in Europe and Japan, while making several trips per year to Europe, Japan and Latin America to study market trends.
"We are extending our services to Japan. In addition, we want to break into the US market," says Wong.
Minimum order is for 3,600 pairs per style (with a two-colour combination). Delivery comes 60-90 days after order confirmation.
Shoes Unlimited (Far East) Corpn Ltd
Suites D-F, 28/F, West Gate Tower
7 Wing Hong St, Lai Chi Kok
Kowloon, Hong Kong
WHILE most shoe manufacturers look to the latest fashion trends for their inspiration, zhong Shan Peninsula Footwear Mfy Co Ltd has taken the opposite approach, focusing its energies on getting back to basics. It is a strategy that has served the firm well.
"Buying top fashion items is a risky business for our overseas customers. By making more basic shoes, we get many repeat orders," says company director Tommy Fong.
Basic does not mean static. The firm creates many types of fashion and classic shoes, including sandals, court shoes, mules and youth casual shoes. "We're always working on new designs and constructions for our shoes. In addition, our customers can make changes," says Fong.
In the early 1980s, when Fong established the company, Taiwanese companies had a superior reputation to their counterparts in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland for making high-quality shoes.
"I didn't agree with that then. Time has proven me right. Now the Chinese mainland [with Hong Kong-based companies at the forefront] is the number one shoemaker in the world," says Fong.
Originally, the firm was a one-man wholesale operation servicing Hong Kong shops. The company had a core group of overseas buyers, which expanded after Fong began exhibiting at Hong Kong trade fairs a decade ago. In 1993, Zhong Shan Peninsula began manufacturing its own line of shoes at a factory in Zhongshan on the Chinese mainland.
Moving from simple wholesale to production and distribution marked a significant change in direction, but Fong says the real turning point came in 1998, when the firm became a production organizer.
"Dealing with all levels of the supply chain didn't work too well," he says. "We decided to sub-contract the manufacturing to various factories, and we stuck to what we do best - dealing with suppliers, developing samples and sales and marketing."
Now the company works with six factories in Zhongshan and Zhuhai, each employing about 150 workers. In 2000, the combined production capacity amounted to 80,000 pairs per month. Although the company does not own these premises, it has injected cash and manpower.
"We always put technical people into the factories to ensure reliable and regular quality-control procedures are carried out," says Fong.
Each factory concentrates on its own speciality. "There are few seasonal changes in this strategy, which means we maintain good control on manufacturing procedures," says Fong.
The firm's main market is Asia. In 1998, the company participated for the first time at the GDS trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany, marking its move into Europe. Next, Fong wants to exhibit in Italy and Russia.
"Many Russian buyers expressed interest in our shoes at the German fair," he says. "This is a growing market. We also want to expand our presence on the Chinese mainland."
Fong stresses the company's ability to offer strong service to its buyers. "We know the markets, and we know our factories. We can control costs and quality. We have built good relationships based on trust with our factories and buyers. This will help us to continue expanding our business."
WRITTEN BY CAROLINE BIEBUYCK
Zhong Shan Peninsula Footwear Mfy Co Ltd
Flat H, 6/F
Hop Hing Industrial Bldg
704 Castle Peak Rd
Kowloon, Hong Kong
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