1 Sept 2000
Hong Kong Jewellery Collection - Company Profiles
SWAROVSKI HK Ltd opened in 1972 to give its European-based parent company a permanent presence in the Greater China region.
The Hong Kong operation has two divisions, consumer and industrial, looking after sales in Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan, says company advertising manager Priscilla Choi.
Industrial division sales of Swarovski's famed crystal products, or jewellery stones as Choi calls them, are mostly to fashion jewellery companies manufacturing in the region.
Crystal jewellery stones contain a high lead content that increases refractivity and reflectivity of the product.
"Swarovski sells over 10,000 different varieties of jewellery stones to manufacturers," says Choi. "They have as many uses as our manufacturers have imagination -- such as in fashion jewellery, in watches on the dials and bands, in toys, especially dolls' clothes, on pens and stationery. Nowadays, companies even decorate mobile phones with our jewellery stones."
With more than a century of experience as a crystal manufacturer, it comes as no surprise that Swarovski is a market leader. Initially established in 1895 in Austria by Daniel Swarovski, the company has grown to more than 9,000 employees, located in every corner of the globe, with an enviably wide product range.
It constantly develops new lines and ideas to help customers keep up with fashion trends. Choi says the most exciting jewellery stone at the moment is a new 12-facet Chaton stone, which is a round shape with a sharp bottom, patented by Swarovski.
"These stones have increased brilliance and are especially popular with manufacturers for pav?setting in fashion jewellery items," says Choi. Colourless round stones in small sizes less than 10mm are most in demand.
Swarovski strives to stay ahead of fashion trends. Its new line of colours for 2001, called Fluid Colours, typifies this. The company has tried to mix two colours into one jewellery stone, thus mimicking natural elements like fire and water.
Marketing these products is one of Swarovski's strengths. The company attends numerous jewellery fairs and regularly holds seminars to update customers on trends and new products.
"Our major market for the future is [mainland] China. As well as attending three trade fairs a year there, we recently opened new representative offices in Qingdao and Yiwu, near Shanghai," says Choi.
Swarovski looks to quality, service, variety and innovation as its business advantages over competitors. "Quality means our products are of a consistently high quality," Choi says. "Service means we provide information on the products, as well as just selling them, such as via our trade seminars. Variety is the wide range of more than 10,000 types of jewellery stones we offer. Finally, innovation is our desire to create new products, such as our new Fluid Colours line."
Choi stresses the value of Swarovski products. "We always try to meet, or even create, market demand with our products. Prices are set by the product quality and the service Swarovski provides," she says.
SEEING the huge international potential for Hong Kong manufacturers, three Hong Kong jewellery industry professionals teamed up in 1987 to establish a new company.
Using letters from each of their names, they called the fledgling enterprise, KTL Jewellery Mfr Ltd. Thirteen years later, KTL is an established player on the international jewellery scene and has grown rapidly to feature four companies, together forming the KTL Group.
"We knew the jewellery market and could see the possibilities for growth," says sales director Alan Kei, one of the original founders. "At first, our aim was to export to the Asian market. After three years, we made our first sales trip to the US. Back then, not many Hong Kong companies were exporting to the US."
In early 2000, KTL sales to the US rose by an estimated 30%, making that market the company's major one, along with Europe. KTL still exports to Asia, but sales there have suffered in the dismal economic climate of recent years. More than 90% of the company's production is exported.
"Sales to the US have increased in quantity, but decreased in quality. The price points are down, but our customers are selling more cheaper items," says Kei.
As a manufacturer specializing in large volume, this benefits KTL. The company produces all types of fine gold jewellery, as well as platinum and silver items, with price points from US$20-500 FOB Hong Kong. The best sellers are commercial-quality pieces of diamond jewellery in white gold, priced from US$50-150.
A new factory in Panyu, southern China, is the jewel in KTL's crown. The new facility features 1,200 workers, catering for increased demand. It joins two other KTL factories in mainland China and a small workshop for repairs in Hong Kong.
Kei says KTL's business advantages emerge from its emphasis on sales and service. "We have very good sales people who know not only how to sell, but also about the jewellery and customer needs," he says. Sales people work in small teams with designers, craftsmen and other staff, enabling them to provide multi-faceted advice to overseas customers.
"Jewellery demand is always changing. It fluctuates along with fashion, and we are always looking for what's new. We get information from our customers, and each month we make up to 600 new models, 80% of them tailor-made for our customers. We are lucky to have excellent clients, and we work hard for them," says Kei.
Demonstrating how important customers are, KTL has launched a VIP program for 20 of its best customers. "Our sales people make trips on average twice a month with product models to visit VIP customers," says Kei. He believes the punishing schedule is worthwhile because few other manufacturers make the effort to visit clients so regularly.
The company attends more than 25 trade shows, including the Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair in September.
"In the past six months we have made more colourful pieces featuring black diamonds and fancy coloured sapphires in pink and yellow. That's where demand is moving," says Kei.
WRITTEN BY JOHNNY EDISON
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