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Challenges Bring Out The Best From Exhibitors(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 01,2002)

Vol 1, 2002

Product Features
HK Enterprise Internet

Show Report

Challenges Bring Out The Best From Exhibitors

Understanding Consumers - The Key To Unlocking Sales


Challenges Bring Out The Best From Exhibitors

A ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the 2001 Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair. Officiating were (left to right): Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair Organizing Committee co-chairman Wu
Ku-chuen, Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades & Industries permanent honorary president Dr Samson Sun, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) executive director Michael Sze, Hong Kong secretary for commerce and industry Chau Tak-hay, TDC Watches & Clocks Advisory Committee chairman Bob Chong, Hong Kong Watch Mfrs Assn honorary life-president Hilton Cheong-leen and Fair Organizing Committee co-chairman Tommy Chan. Throughout the fair, thousands of buyers from Hong Kong and overseas examined new products from 720 exhibitors.

AGAINST a backdrop of slowing timepiece trade, the 20th annual Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, held on 5-9 September 2001, inspired optimistic industry views.

Although about half the fair participants interviewed in a survey at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre anticipated worsening market conditions, they also expected US timepiece imports to rebound by the third quarter of 2002.

Presiding at the opening ceremony, Hong Kong secretary for commerce and industry Chau Tak-hay expressed confidence the timepiece industry would rise to meet all challenges.

"In the face of intense international competition, Hong Kong's watch and clock industry has made significant strides up the value chain by enhancing quality, productivity and customer services. Our manufacturers invested heavily in developing ODM business, expanding R&D capability, upgrading production technology and using IT to support marketing. Such efforts earned Hong Kong an edge in areas like quality assurance, design and production efficiency," Chau said.

The fair allowed Hong Kong exhibitors to display their strengths. Gemstone Development Ltd managing director Frank Chau said: "Manufacturers work hard to come up with new materials and new looks. For example, we are examining alternatives to common materials like alloy, copper and stainless steel. We use tungsten, aluminium and other metal compositions to create selling points. Plastic is also popular and versatile."

Brand-building is vital, especially as the Chinese mainland market opens due to World Trade Organization membership.

"Since there is little chance for us to do OEM work for the mainland market, having our own brands is one way to achieve success there," said Renley Watch Co Ltd managing director Stanley Lau.

Offering customers a wide range and tempting new products is also crucial. Another Hong Kong exhibitor, Hanville Co Ltd, showed numerous watches and in-house brands. The company specializes in "slim and elegant" styles, including his-and-her watch sets with stainless-steel cases and bands or leather straps, said general manager Queenie Lau. In-house brands include Michel Rene, Louis Armolo, Kin-mix, Pet Pet Pig and Woo Woo Dog.

Time & Sports was the theme for a gala cocktail reception featuring a parade of timepiece fashions and celebrating Beijing's successful bid to host the Olympic Games in July 2008.
"Our strength lies in our wide range with something for everyone, from classic styles to sporty watches for the younger market," said Lau.

A survey commissioned by the fair organizer, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, revealed that industry players anticipate quartz analog watches with white metal cases and bands will be the most popular designs in all markets.

AC Nielsen (China) Ltd conducted the on-site survey during the first two days of the fair. Results appear on the fair Web site at http://hkwatchfair.com.

Another discernable trend showed European women partial to watches with diamonds. "The watches can be stainless steel, plastic or rubber," said the assistant editor of Italian watch magazine L'Orologio, Dody Giussani. "It was a little strange at first, but now this trend is all the rage. You might call these luxury products for young people."

Young Japanese consumers favour "back to basics" items. "The trend is toward normal styles, not necessarily being dazzled by 100 different functions," said the director of Tokyo-based J.K.S. News & Magazine Yukio Shima.

Luxury brands still excel in Japan. "Premium brands, like Cartier and Bulgari, remain very popular," Shima said.

Survey results indicated fashion, sports and multifunction watches will prove popular in global markets.

The answers to survey questions on consumer attitudes showed watches are regarded as fashion accessories in all markets and that people wear different watches for different occasions. They will buy watches with good designs, even if the brands are unfamiliar.

Although traditional clocks always sell, manufacturers strive to distinguish themselves with different functions. Taipei-based My-Space Corp showcased an MP3 clock programmable to replace a traditional alarm ring with favourite songs or personal messages.

New products in all shapes and styles filled exhibition halls at the 2001 Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair. Exhibitors stressed the importance of offering customers a wide range of tempting new products.

"This clock comes with software and a cable to connect to a PC. We aim it at young, computer-savvy consumers in markets like the US, Europe and Japan," said My-Space director Wen Lu.

Executives from Taiwan enterprise Ultmost Technology Group believe consumers will appreciate their talking, recording and voice-recognition clocks. "One best seller is a four-alarm clock targeted at baby boomers who may have difficulty reading the clock and so need the alarm, or may need to take medication and prefer a specific alarm for that purpose," said Ultmost vice-president Stephen Fang.

Hong Kong's Switime Industrial Ltd, a maker of quality, compact-designed clocks, launched new models. "One is a melody-and-bell changeable alarm clock that says 'Good Morning' when the alarm is turned off. We think that is a nice way to start the day," said assistant marketing manager Jennifer Ngan.

Switime also offers an ideal timepiece for people who hate noise. "We launched the Silent Wall Clock featuring a silent sweep hand. Most clocks give an audible tick as the second hand moves, but our new clock is different," Ngan said.

New products help maintain a competitive edge. "The Middle East market has slowed so price is crucial. We look for a wider range and more new models to entice consumers," said Saudi Arabian buyer Naeem Mohamed, representing Ali Zaid Al-Quraishi & Bros.

The next edition of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair is scheduled for 10-14 September 2002.


Understanding Consumers - The Key To Unlocking Sales

Despite a slowdown in some major markets, product sourcing and business negotiations proceeded at the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair. A survey of participants indicated strongest demand for fashion, sports and multifunction watches.

THE Asian Watch Industry Conference, staged concurrently with the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair 2001, provided strategic insight into market trends in the US, Japan and the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong-based Fossil (East) Ltd director Jal Shroff explained the market impact of the US economic slowdown. American consumers are unlikely to buy at the same rate as during the past decade. Yet they have not completely lost confidence - merely become more restrictive and selective.

Shroff's advice is for manufacturers to closely monitor trends, use the latest technology to streamline business and introduce supply-chain management in factories.

Clock House Co senior managing director Yoji Hanatani said Japanese retailers must work closely with Hong Kong manufacturers to cope with major changes in Japan's retail market. Consumers there have a great penchant for watches and need products catering to diverse lifestyles.

Shanghai Sanlian Group Co vice-general manager Mao Xuyong argued that Shanghai's timepiece industry would grow, despite any slowdown in the world economy. Consumers there are becoming more discriminating and want more premium brands.

The Chinese mainland's accession to the World Trade Organization would result in lower tariffs and lower retail prices, Mao said.


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