5 Dec 2008
Wet Weather Friends(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 12,2008)
Umbrellas & Rain Gear
Automatic umbrellas, colourful rain boots and pack-away ponchos are hot, value-added wet-weather friends
Come rain or shine, Hong Kong manufacturers always strive to add new features and attractions to products that keep users dry in inclement weather.
The ubiquitous umbrella, for example, is the specialty of Rainbow Umbrella (HK) Ltd, which also produces and plates umbrella frames. "We cater to OEM and ODM needs at our two factories, and offer more than 100 designs," says Marketing Manager Cynthia Li.
The company's hottest sellers are golf and super-mini three-fold umbrellas. "Our umbrella fabrics are mainly nylon or pongee, although nylon is most popular as printed corporate or brand logos look sharper," Ms Li observes.
Rainbow Umbrella can also provide matching ponchos or raincoats, she adds. "Europe is our major market, accounting for 60% of our business, with the US and other areas comprising the remainder."
Vanguard Shoe Co Ltd, which specialises in rubber and PVC boots for rain protection as well as for fashion, industrial, sailing, fishing and hunting purposes, is busy keeping feet dry.
"Our business is divided equally between OEM and ODM," says Manager Susan Sung. "We offer new designs every season and about 30 styles currently."
Flowers are favourite motifs for ladies' wellingtons, she notes. "Multicoloured flower prints are our most popular design for knee-high boots, which we produce in women's sizes 36-41. Ladies wear them as fashion items as well," Ms Sung advises, revealing that female rain boots with various floral patterns on an off-white colour base are currently in production for summer 2009.
"When it comes to kids' models, dinosaur and butterfly motifs are popular," she says, adding that Vanguard offers sizes 19-35 for children's boots, and sizes 42-47 for men.
Protection from the elements is the mission of Family Umbrella Co, which manufactures folding, fashion, children's, golf and beach umbrellas. "More than 60% of our output is for the promotions market and 40% for distributors supplying department stores and supermarkets," says Sales Manager Susan Tai.
Family Umbrella's 21 inch-arc, three-section, manual folding umbrellas are its most popular variety, with auto open/close versions also in demand. Stick varieties range from 12 inch-arc umbrellas for kids to 23 inches for adults, which Ms Tai says is the most popular size. "Our golf umbrellas are 30 inches and our beach umbrellas 35 inches and above," she adds.
Some 90% of Family Umbrella's business is OEM and the remainder is its own designs, including several interesting fancy umbrellas. "For example, we produce a kids' paint-it-yourself umbrella that is either in plain fabric for the child's free expression or with guiding pictures, such as a house or butterfly," Ms Tai explains.
Handles for folding umbrellas often come in wood or plastic, while the company is switching more from plastic to rubber or EVA for its golf models to offer a more elegant look with a better grip.
"Our frames are mainly made of metal, but a big percentage of our golf umbrellas are in fibreglass as the cost of metal has climbed since 2007," Ms Tai reveals.
Unit prices range from US$1-6 FOB Hong Kong. "Our average price is US$3 but can be as high as US$10 for a garden umbrella," she notes.
Handy rain gear is also one of the fortes of plastic film products manufacturer Petalai Group Ltd. "We mainly use low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and a significant part of our business is producing disposable ponchos and raincoats, although we also manufacture polybags," says Marketing Manager Berry Ng.
"More than 90% of our rainwear products are ponchos as they are very convenient and can be folded neatly using the hood and drawstring as a bag," he notes, quoting unit prices of US$0.30-0.65 FOB Hong Kong.
The firm can produce ponchos in die-cut shaping or tailor-made as a coat with sleeves. "We offer flexographic or rotogravure printing, and while the former is cheaper the latter produces better-quality prints," Mr Ng advises.
More than two-thirds of Petalai's ponchos are for adults, and the remainder for children, with adult sizes in medium, large and extra large and one size for children.
The company's own Petapoly-brand poncho is aimed at the Hong Kong market, while most overseas orders are OEM. "More than half of our overseas business is for promotions houses and premiums sourcing," Mr Ng adds.
"Europe is currently our major export market, although we are interested in Asian markets as the climate is very suitable for our ponchos and these areas seek inexpensive rainwear," he imparts. "This year has been a good one for business, although we have a more conservative outlook for 2009."
Whatever the economic conditions, consumers will always be looking for affordable rain gear with style and flair to brighten up rainy days, and value-added options will certainly take global markets by storm.
TEXT BY SANDRA JENNER