1 Sept 1996
Hong Kong Optical - Industry Overview
AS Hong Kong's optical goods industry continues to mature at a rapid pace, industry leaders are taking determined steps to make sure that Hong Kong stays at the forefront of the world optical market. Along with a growing market has come an increasing pride in its growth.
"The industry is booming," says Harvey Fung, one of the founders of the Hong Kong Optical Manufacturers' Association (HKOMA). "It is very dynamic. Hong Kong is now second in volume of frame production to only Italy." Fung was formerly president of the HKOMA and is its current vice-president. He is also the managing director of VIP Int'l Ltd, and has been in the industry for 30 years.
Like Fung, current HKOMA president Tony Chow is very positive about the state of the Hong Kong optical market. "I think things are picking up this year," says Chow, also director of Mandarin Optical Mfy.
Although Fung believes that Italy is and will remain the industry leader, at least in the short term, he thinks that the Hong Kong optical industry is heading in the right direction. He thinks that the recent relocating of Hong Kong factories in China, in places like Shenzhen and Dongguan has helped the territory.
Chow agrees. "Most of the manufacturing has moved to China. Labour is much less expensive there, so the move has given us great advantage in terms of price competition," he says. "Sales have increased because we have been able to lower prices. Hong Kong's sales volume is up."
The numbers back up Chow's assertions. Total exports were up 30% in 1995, to HK$4.26bn. "America is still the biggest market for us," says Chow. "Countries in Europe like Germany, France and England, are important markets. China is a big market, too." In the first six months of 1996, the US absorbed 45% of Hong Kong's exports, followed by the UK (8%), Germany (7%), Japan (6%) and China (6%).
Michael Ng, an HKOMA committee member and chairman of Arts Optical Mfy Ltd, one of Hong Kong's largest optical frame manufacturers, sees another benefit to the lower labour costs of which Hong Kong is taking advantage: "Manufacturers are now willing and able to put more investment into manufacturing. So now companies have better, higher-tech machines, which means that quality will be better."
Another industry leader, Cary Ma, managing director of Moulin Int'l Holdings Ltd and vice-president of HKOMA, notes that as technology advances, people expect their frames to be lighter and more durable.
In terms of frame materials, the consensus is that metal frames remain very popular items this year, as over the last few years. Ng says that sales of stainless steel and titanium frames remain strong.
Sales of metal frames are finally beginning to give some room, though, to frames made of plastic, reports Ma. Tony Chow, too, sees plastic frames returning to popularity. "Business in plastics was slow before, but it is picking up," he says.
The variety of frame shapes is tremendous, experts say. Many shapes popular last year remain in demand, according to Fung. "People still want oval frames. They want them to be compact, with small-size lenses. Antique colours are very popular, too: colours like antique gold, blue and green." Ng maintains that there is also a market for classic, simple optical frames.
In terms of sunglasses, Chow says that demand for larger plastic frame sunglasses is growing. "I see shapes from 50 or 60 years ago," he says, "with heavier, thicker frames, in a single colour like black or amber."
"People also want sporty frames," Ng says, "with big curving lenses." Cary Ma agrees, noting that environmental issues are driving the demand for sunglasses as well. "People are more aware of the ozone problem. They want protection from harmful ultraviolet rays for going out and for when they exercise," he explains.
Ma is also seeing a lot of the "retro" styles in sunglasses, used by designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, but adds that the fashions are "moving in all directions" this year. For instance, he says that a "high-tech" look is gaining ground in the sunglasses market, too. "People want thin frames in interesting shapes, like hexagons," he says, citing the popularity of designer Jean-Paul Gaultier's offerings.
Whatever the fashions or materials the optical market demands, Hong Kong manufacturers are accommodating it. Originally known for middle-cost plastic frames, Hong Kong's optical companies are producing high-quality frames in metal, plastic or a combination of metal and plastic.
Local production of frame materials is increasing, according to Fung. Hong Kong is producing more cellulose acetate, used to make plastic frames, although much of it is still imported. For wire and metals, though, as Ng notes, Hong Kong manufacturers continue to source much of their materials from Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
Consumer choice is driving the industry. "Once optical products were necessities. Now they are an entire fashion industry," says Ma. "People demand fashion on their faces. That's why more and more designers have joined the industry in the past few years." That is why optical manufacturers are making many small batches of different style frames, rather than several large batches of just a few kinds of frames.
In considering the overall state of Hong Kong's optical industry, Ma says these are two areas in which he sees the industry taking concrete steps toward improvement. First, he sees Hong Kong striving to ensure that the worldwide perception of the quality of its products matches the products' actual quality. He does not think that worldwide customers yet appreciate how fine the quality of Hong Kong's products has become. Second, he sees Hong Kong working to create a stronger design base.
The first of the industry's recent changes addresses the image it projects to the world. This year, the optical industry proudly unveiled its own Q-Mark certification scheme. Q-Marks are only issued to companies that meet the Q-Mark Council's benchmark of quality. A company that earns a Q-Mark designation has passed repeated inspections, aimed at evaluating its management and product quality. The industry is optimistic that the Q-Mark system will help force manufacturers to focus on the processes within their own factories, and thus be able to back up their claims of high quality with seals of approval.
The move has already received industry support. For instance, Ng's company, Arts Optical Mfy Ltd, is seeking a Q-Mark. Ng is pleased with the scheme's introduction and thinks it will help Hong Kong's reputation. "I think it is very good," he says, "It promotes quality improvement for the entire industry."
Another important step on the path of fine tuning the design capabilities of Hong Kong's optical industry is a CAD/CAM project. HKOMA is seeking funding for creating a massive database, a visual library of information, that Ma in fact thinks may be the first of its kind of this scale. The database will combine laser-collected facial structure measurements from people around the world. "We can expect that in the future, if we are told to make frames for a target market group of a certain age and country, we would input the information into the database, and the database would say how the frame should be structured." Ma gives an example: "When a company is to produce optical frames, say, for North America, it can be difficult for a manufacturer to imagine the nose and facial structure. The database would tell the company how the frame should be structured, with a high nose, low nose, whatever." HKOMA hopes to have the database up and running by July 1997.
Bolstering its design practices from a very different angle, the industry is becoming increasingly sensitive to the need for considering its designs in an international context, in terms of intellectual property rights. On the one hand, Ma explains, "Hong Kong manufacturers need to be sure of how to protect themselves, in terms of patenting or registering designs. On the other side, we want to make sure that the Hong Kong industry is clear that copying designs is not acceptable."
Q-MARK MEANS QUALITY
AFTER several years of planning, the Hong Kong optical industry this year successfully introduced its own Q-Mark certification, which it hopes will ensure that high quality for optical products is the standard throughout the territory. Established through a collaboration between the Federation of Hong Kong Ind and the Hong Kong Optical Mfy Assn Ltd, the Q-Mark sets the standards for the industry's production and management.
Q-Marks already exist in Hong Kong for other industries, and the last few years have been spent tailoring the specifications for optical frame manufacturers worthy of bearing a Q-Mark hallmark. It is the first of its kind within Hong Kong's growing optical industry, Cary Ma, a vice-president of the HKOMA, explains. "Worldwide demand for optical products is growing. Our original thought was that to compete with Italian manufacturers of optical frames, we must be able to back up our claims of good quality. So HKOMA and the Federation worked closely together for two years to outline the standards, which are now bound into three booklets." These manuals set out guidelines for the hopeful Q-Mark applicant.
The subject matter covered by the booklets, and by the certification, are quite thorough. Ma describes the booklets: "One governs general practice. The second one addresses the quality of the manufacturer's system in terms of management and operation. For example, if a company has been asked to stamp a logo onto some sample lenses, an inspector would check that the instruction was carried out properly. The third booklet addresses the quality of the product itself. The quality factor includes both a cosmetic aspect Ä is the frame scratched at all, is it polished properly Ä and a structural aspect, which includes issues like whether the frame can withstand 50 pounds of pressure at the temple without breaking."
Certification is available in three categories, based on the materials used: spectacles/spectacle frames with metal frames, cellulose acetate sheet frames, and plastic injection molded frames. The certification is available for companies that manufacture in China, as well as those with operations in Hong Kong.
Once a company applies for a Q-Mark, inspectors from the Hong Kong Q-Mark Council go to the factory itself to watch production. "The people go to the factory, to see how they are working, where they get parts, material, things like that," says Tony Chow, president of the HKOMA. "Most important, though, is the quality. The council considers how long the materials keep their colour, they consider how strong the frames are, they consider how they fit on the face, and those kinds of things."
Because Q-Mark is intended to raise industry standards, rather than serving as a one-time award, all is not lost if a manufacturer fails the inspection the first time round. Inspectors will work with the optical company, teaching staff and helping them fix the problems. Once a company has been licenced, the Council performs follow-up surveillance, which includes a factory visit and more product testing. The licence must be renewed annually.
The response from optical companies to the Q-Mark availability has been tremendous, Ma says. "Companies are very busy queuing up for this." That does not mean that the procedure is lengthy, Ma continues. "In fact, for a well-organised company the process can take only one month. In the worst case, it could take a company a year to earn a Q-Mark," he says.
Ma is optimistic about the impact that Q-Mark will have on the industry. "Every company should at least have a good system. You cannot just fool yourself and say 'I have good quality.' " Through Q-Mark, companies can prove it, for the world to see.
Written by Amy Lessler Freeman
IN recognition of the territory's growing importance as a world optical goods manufacturing and distribution centre, the Hong Kong Optical Fair, the largest of its kind in Asia, will change from a biennial to an annual event starting next year.
This year's fair, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), will be held from November 7-9 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is sponsored by the Hong Kong Optical Manufacturers Association and 20/20 Asia.
According to Perry Fung, TDC exhibitions manager, as a result of market demand by overseas buyers, the 1996 fair will be much larger in size, with nearly 240 exhibitors showing the latest developments in the optical industry worldwide. Exhibits will range from optical frames and glasses to machinery, packaging materials and related chemicals and services.
The number of exhibitors this year will be more than 50% higher than at the last fair in 1994. Exhibition space on Level 5 of the convention centre has been increased to 9,000 square metres from the previous 6,000 square metres to accommodate the additional flow.
Overseas exhibitors will account for more than 40% of this year's total. "We expect to have 25 exhibitors from China, many of them from Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, which is an important optical manufacturing region in China," Fung says.
Rising standards of living in China are fuelling a growing demand for fashionable frames and other optical merchandise. Other countries represented at the fair include Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan and the US.
An anticipated 8,000 local and overseas visitors are expected to attend the three-day event, up from 4,633 in 1994. At the last fair, 2,333 overseas visitors represented 75 countries; 4,000 are expected this year. China alone will send more than 300 buyers, Fung says.
Overseas buyers are increasingly attracted by the range and quality of eyewear at the show. Along with China, the fair is targeting traditional optical markets in the US, UK and Japan, as well as emerging markets in South Africa, the Middle East, South America and India.
In 1994, buyers placed orders totalling HK$148.7m, (US$19.1m) including HK$65.6m in on-the-spot sales.
About 80-90% of the territory's total optical goods production is exported. In the first half of 1996, Hong Kong's exports of optical goods amounted to HK$2.9bn, an increase of 22% over the same period last year. Exports of optical instruments and apparatus were HK$2.02bn, a rise of 11% over the same period.
A large proportion of exported products bear the brand names or trademarks of overseas buyers. "Hong Kong manufacturers enjoy a good reputation for producing spectacles for internationally recognised brand names and designer names under licensing arrangements," Fung says. In addition, Hong Kong's optical goods industry has a well established subcontracting network and is amply supported by ancillary industries and parts, such as spring hinges, nose bridges, electroplating and mould-making.
The 1997 fair, scheduled for November 6-8, is expected to build on past successes. "We hope to have nearly 300 exhibitors and 9,000 visitors, and a 10-20% increase in gross exhibition area," Fung says. The fair will feature an even wider product range, including specialised instruments and machinery.
The TDC is already preparing for the 1997 show. "We are promoting the fair to government organisations and exporters' associations in major importing countries, such as Germany, Italy and France. We have begun an extensive advertising campaign to recruit exhibitors and to encourage countries to set up national pavilions," he says. Noting the enormous market opportunities in Asia, Fung says the Optical Fair serves as an effective gateway to the booming Asian market for optical products.
"China is a large potential market for Hong Kong optical goods. Coupled with fast-growing markets in Southeast Asian countries -- such as Indonesia and Thailand -- Hong Kong's optical goods manufacturers are very optimistic about the territory's future," he says.
Written by Andrea Pawlyna
FRAMES THAT NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE
SPECTACLES are a well established fashion item and the choice of frames is becoming an increasingly important decision for spectacle wearers. Perhaps the most important part of this selection process is whether to opt for metal or plastic frames. Metal frames have always been in vogue, and when it comes to satisfying this demand, Hong Kong optical companies produce an unbeatable range of designs.
Wing Fung Optical Mfy Ltd manufactures high-quality metal frames in a wide range of colours and styles, to match individual customer requirements. It supplies more than 60,000 pairs per month to a customer base predominantly in Europe. "Our markets in Spain, France and Germany are growing steadily. Our products reach the high standard demanded by our customers, and our credibility is high due to delivering on time and at reasonable prices," states general manager Jenny Cheng. Wing Fung has a price range of US$4.50-10, a minimum order requirement of 200 pieces per model, and offers a delivery time of 70-90 days.
Eye Workshop Ltd (a subsidiary of Mazen Ind Ltd) is a dynamic new company, which has just launched four new eyewear collections, with the brand names Oboe, I-Workshop, Shocker and Exit. Drawing on the experience of its parent company, these collections have been carefully planned. Assistant marketing manager Maria Lau explains, "Our in-house designers have spent a lot of time in researching and developing these lines, and have talked to buyers at fashion and trade shows all over the world." Lau believes that the new collections will be popular with Eye Workshop's customers everywhere, particularly with the Far East and Southeast Asian markets. "The fittings and styles are very suitable for our markets in Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and we can also offer a very attractive delivery time of approximately three weeks," she explains. The price range per pair is HK$98-128 (US$12.65-16.51) FOB Hong Kong on a minimum order requirement of 500 pieces per model.
Another company with a strong customer base in Asia is Catini Optical (Far East) Co Ltd. "Our major markets are in Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia, although more recently we have started to develop sales in Germany and France," says managing director Sam Ng. Manufacturing under its own brand Navy Jack and also on an OEM basis for several well known clients, Catini's current output is approximately 20,000 units per month. Prices for the Navy Jack optical frames range from US$13 to US$15 FOB Hong Kong and the metal framed sunglasses start at US$10. Catini has a minimum order requirement of 500 and will deliver in about 90 days.
"Metal frames will always be popular -- they offer a combination of fashion and strength, which is what people want," explains Poon Sui Hong, general manager at Elegance Optical Mfy Ltd. Having been in business since 1975, Elegance Optical is in a good position to know the market well, and currently produces in excess of 300,000 frames per month, on an OEM basis and under its own brand names, Elegance and Rococo. "We have customers all over the world, with the largest in the US and Europe. We do well simply because we offer the right designs at the right prices," continues Poon. The price range for Elegance Optical's frames is US$4.50-10 FOB Hong Kong, dependent upon the finish, and the company promises delivery in 70-90 days.
Mech-Tronic Precision Mfg Ltd produces 80,000 frames of assorted models at its factory in China for its major customers located in the US and Europe. "The company was founded in 1989 to manufacture frame parts, and then eventually we built on our experience to start producing the complete frame," explains managing director Raymond Leung. Mech-Tronic produces a wide range of designs, including those with spring hinges and ornate frameworks, and manufactures in a variety of metals including nickel silver and stainless steel. Prices begin at about US$3 FOB Hong Kong with a minimum order requirement of 300 pieces per model, and a delivery time of 60 days. "Our products are high quality and consequently our business is continuing to grow in the US, Europe and also now in Latin America," confirms Leung.
Well Arts Optical Fty Ltd engages in business on both sides of the Atlantic. As marketing director Kelvin Ma explains, "Our business is split almost evenly between the US and the UK. However, the markets are quite different, with the US preferring the more classical and conservative styles." Metal frames from Well Arts start at about HK$35 per piece but prices generally depend on the size of the order. Well Arts requires a minimum order of 100 pieces per size of frame and per colour, and promises a delivery time of approximately 90 days. Its factory turns out in the region of 200,000 frames per month, an amount that looks set to increase in the future. Ma elaborates, "We are currently expanding all our markets, particularly in the US, where they like our combination of good quality and competitive prices."
Written by Simon Saunders
WHAT'S IN A FRAME?
STRONG competition is forcing spectacle frame and sunglasses manufacturers to come up with more innovative designs and better quality products to stay ahead in the market-place.
One of Asia's largest sunglasses and spectacle frame manufacturers, Moulin Optical Mfy Ltd, which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, has a team of 30 designers to create new frames. "We come up with about 1,000 new models per year," Moulin sales director Allen Hung says.
The company recorded 42% growth in turnover in the first seven months of 1995 over the same period of the previous year. Prices per pair of glasses frames are US$4.50-10 FOB Hong Kong. Moulin produces a wide range of sunglasses and frames, such as injection-moulded sunglasses, handmade acetate frames with special spring hinge or special trim design. "We had an increase in sales across the board, particularly in the US and Europe," Hung says.
Demand for acetate frames is swinging back from metal frames, he says, adding that more attention is also being paid to glasses manufactured from a combination of metal and acetate. Moulin, founded in 1960, produces handmade and injection-moulded acetate frames. It produces 200,000 pairs each of injection frames and handmade frames and 300,000 pairs of metal frames monthly. The minimum order is 500 pieces. Delivery time is three months for injection-moulded and handmade frames and four months for metal frames.
Major markets are the US and Europe, but Moulin also markets products to Japan, China, Australia and South Africa. It imports acetate from Italy and the US. The company has a 500,000-square-foot wholly owned factory in Shantou, China, employing 3,000 workers, as well as an office in Hong Kong.
Hung says the company is flexible and can increase production as demand warrants. "We see a bright future for the frame industry," he says, adding that the company has an average turnover of US$40m annually.
Asia Optical Mfy Ltd markets a variety of sunglasses and spectacle frames for between US$5 and US$7.50 per pair.
"We design shape and size according to customer demand," says Christina Lee, Asia Optical's marketing manager. The company's product range includes unisex handmade acetate frames in tortoise green colour, ladies' slim-shaped frames using hardened material from Italy, trendy matt-finish styles handmade from Japanese acetate or classic-style frames fitted with top quality German-made spring hinges in brown-amber for men.
The company markets products for private labels, as well as under the brand names AOM and Airports. Asia Optical, established in 1962 by Lee's father, Charles Lee, accepts a minimum order of 1,000 pairs per model and takes about two months for delivery. Its major markets are the US, Germany, the UK, France, Canada, Mexico and Japan.
Asia Optical produces its glass frames in a 50,000-square-foot factory in a three-storey building in Shenzhen, China, employing 180 workers. The company was one of the earliest to relocate its manufacturing facilities to southern China in the early 1980s after Beijing announced its open-door policy. The firm stresses quality and has quality control inspections after each stage of production, plus a final quality inspection before packaging.
Hoi Tat Optical Mfy Ltd's manager Patrick Lok says that sales of acetate glasses frames are picking up by 10-20%, while demand for metal frames is the same as in 1995. He says demand in 1997 is expected to remain the same as this year. The manufacturer of acetate, metal and injection-moulded frames introduces about 10 new models monthly thanks to its two highly skilled and innovative in-house designers, Lok says.
Hoi Tat produces 80,000 pairs of frames monthly and accepts a minimum order of 200 pairs per model. It promises a delivery time of 60-90 days and its major export markets are the US, UK, Germany and Spain. The family owned business, has a 40,000-square-foot factory in China.
Founded in 1971, Wah Ming Optical Mfg Ltd produces a wide range of metal, injection, acetate and combination optical frames in its seven-storey factory in Shenzhen. According to assistant marketing manager Min Cheng, the company promotes its products through exhibitions and advertisments in magazines.
Acetate frames comprise about 25% of Wah Ming's business. Prices per pair of frames are US$5-8 on a minimum order of 800 pieces. Delivery takes 4-41/2 months for metal frames and 3-31/2 months for acetate frames.
The company has a huge manufacturing facility in Shenzhen employing about 1,800 workers who produce 450,000 glasses frames per month. It imports raw materials, such as Monel, nickel, silver, stainless steel and acetate, from Japan, Italy, the US and Germany.
Executive assistant with New Shun Tat Optical Mfg Co Ltd Amanda Ngan says the company's glasses frames sell for US$5-8.
Founded in 1988, New Shun Tat produces 30,000-40,000 pieces per month. About 80-90% of production comprises acetate frames, the balance made up of frames in other materials. It accepts a minimum order of 300 pieces per model and delivery takes 40-60 days. Its major markets include France, Spain and the UK.
Winntics Optical Ind Co Ltd produces handmade, injection-moulded and metal frames and sunglasses at its factory in Dongguan, China, says director and manager Cecilia Wong. Prices are US$5-8 per piece FOB Hong Kong. While the factory produces 50,000 pieces monthly, it can double its production if demand requires, Wong says.
Winntics accepts a minimum order of 300 pieces per model and delivers 90 days after order confirmation. Its major markets are the US, Canada, South America, Germany and France.
Written by JS Wong
ALONG with shrinking family sizes and increased interest by parents in safe products for their children comes a broadening range of spectacles and sunglasses for children. But the fashion aspect can't be ignored -- children's optical has to be as much about fashion as it is about function.
Hong Kong's strong tradition of optical manufacture, combined with its vast experience in producing children's toys, gives it the knowledge to make good-quality products that are competitively priced and fun. It also means an ability to adapt these products to the notoriously fickle whims of the young.
Kam Cheong Plastic Fty Ltd's range of low-cost children's sunglasses typically demonstrates this crucial combination of fun, functionality, cost and adaptability. "Our children's sunglasses are ideal as promotional items," explains sales manager Lap Ngai Chan, citing several million-plus orders Kam Cheong has won in the last year from various American fast-food giants. He adds that Kam Cheong can make virtually any design a client wants.
The sunglasses not only look good, with fun colourful designs ranging from mirrors reminiscent of John Lennon to aeroplane-shaped frames, but at the same time meet with strict EU and US Food and Drug Administration standards for ultraviolet protection. "UV 400 protectorate is normally asked for, so that is what we give," Chan says.
Chan explains that the sunglasses frames can be made from metal, nylon or polypropylene. Either a K-resin or an acrylic coating can be used for the lenses. The materials, he adds, are bought from the US, Taiwan, South Korea and Europe.
"Our main markets are the USA, Japan and Europe," Chan states, adding that, "delivery time depends on the size of the order. Typically, it is two weeks." Chan says that Kam Cheong's monthly production capacity is about two million frames and the minimum order size accepted would be about 1,000 units. Kam Cheong's line of sunglasses is priced from HK$1.65 (US$0.20) to HK$8 FOB Hong Kong apiece.
Alice Choy, company secretary for Chan's Plastic Mfg, points out both the competitive pricing and the contemporary style of the brightly coloured range of plastic sunglasses, noting that Chan's can make any design from a sample.
"Our range comprises of two main lines," she explains. "For three- to eight-year-olds, and for eight- to 16-year-olds. The lenses either have a mirror coating or a coloured coating, and all glasses have shatter-proof UV protected lenses." The entirely plastic range is made in the company's 7,000-square-metre factory in southern China, mainly for the North America, Italian and UK markets, she explains.
"Our factory has a maximum monthly capacity of 100,000 [units]," Choy says. The company's minimum order requirement is 10 cartons, or about 5,000 pieces. Deliveries take 30-45 days. The range is priced between HK$44 per dozen and HK$78 per dozen FOB Hong Kong.
Kosway Ind Co Ltd's striking range of children's sunglasses includes dog and lion designs and even a heart-shaped pair. Director Henry Ko believes glasses should be both fun to wear and of good quality. "All of our products ar"Our factory has a maximum monthly capacity of 100,000 [units]," Choy says. The company's minimum order requirement is 10 cartons, or about 5,000 pieces. Deliveries take 30-45 days. The range is priced between HK$44 per dozen and HK$78 per dozen FOB Hong Kong.
Kosway Ind Co Ltd's striking range of children's sunglasses includes dog and lion designs and even a heart-shaped pair. Director Henry Ko believes glasses should be both fun to wear and of good quality. "All of our products are fun, but at the same time they have a use. All of them are UV protected," he says.
Kosway, which also makes binoculars, microscopes and reading glasses, has a monthly production capacity of 300,000 units. The minimum order size accepted is 12,000 pieces. Formed in 1980, Kosway has a factory in China and an office in Hong Kong. It predominantly supplies markets in Europe and the US. Delivery usually takes 45 days and Ko says the average cost for sunglasses is about HK$1.50 FOB Hong Kong.
At the other end of the market are the stylish and classic designs from Mandarin Optical Mfy. Company manager Lenny Chow is proud to state that his father established the company in 1967 and that Mandarin is now known in the market for its workmanship and accordingly has a good reputation for quality and service.
Mandarin Optical makes three categories of optical products. "We manufacture handmade acetate frames, metal frames and injection-moulded proportionate plastic frames," he says.
"All our metal components are imported from Europe, the most common one being Monel liquid silver. Our two factories, one in China and one in Hong Kong, can handle an order of 80,000 pieces a month," he adds. The company accepts orders of as little as 500 units.
Chow reveals that Mandarin sells to the US, to European countries and, to a lesser extent, to South Africa and Australia. Acetate and metal frames start from US$2.50 FOB Hong Kong and injection-moulded ones from US$2.50 apiece. Mandarin promises delivery in 75-120 days.
Always Top Ind Ltd also specialises in metal-alloy and nickel-silver spectacle frames. The varied and colourful youth range is for children 5-9 years old, according to company manager Amy Siu. Siu says the company puts great emphasis on attention to detail. "We make our frames European in style, make sure they have appealing colours and that they have clever design."
Formed in 1987, Always Top has a capacity of 40,000-50,000 frames per month. Its minimum order is 200 pieces per model. "Our main markets are the UK, Germany, Spain and Sweden and our prices range from US$4 per piece to US$10 per piece, both FOB Hong Kong," Siu explains.
Siu reveals a changing approach of Hong Kong's optical industry towards children's optical wear. Many manufacturers think that frames must be cheap, as parents are not willing to spend much. "But we think otherwise," she says. "Kids' frames must not only look good but must be durable and tougher than adult glasses ... Kids are not as careful as adults."
Written by Richard Cook
FACING THE GLARE WITH STYLE
SUNGLASSES make a bold fashion statement, with an increasing number of people using them to enhance their looks, not just to keep the sunlight at bay. It has even become fashionable to wear shades to late-night parties and discos.
Hong Kong suppliers offer models in a wide variety of shapes and shades. Some of the units are sporty in style and feature air holes for ventilation. Women's models are the most popular, according to manufacturers.
Genuine Int'l Optical Ltd, established in 1989, exports most of its output to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. According to sales and marketing manager Thomas Yu, Genuine Int'l recently began to make inroads into Germany, the UK and US. "We plan to expand our markets to other parts of Europe because we see potential there," he says.
The company has a 30,000-square-foot factory in Shenzhen, China, employing 600 workers. The company sources raw materials such as rim wire in Germany. Plating comes from Japan and lenses from Hong Kong agents.
"We make acetate and metal units, sunglasses and ophthalmic spectacles," says Yu, adding that Genuine's average monthly output of sunglasses is 90,000, comprising 60% of total production. Genuine requires a minimum order size of 400 sunglasses per model, and prices are US$6.70-14 FOB Hong Kong per pair. Deliveries normally arrive about three months after receipt of an L/C.
"This company runs mainly on OEM orders," Yu says. However, the firm also produces under its own brand names, such as Gekko and Scorpion.
Heyro Optical Co Ltd, founded in 1986, makes sunglasses, reading glasses and optical frames. The sunglasses lenses come in various shades of smoky grey, green and rose, while the frames are wire or plastic. It also makes reflective units in flashy colours. According to marketing officer Herbert Cheung, the firm's largest market is the US, although some output also goes to Germany and the UK. "The unisex models are the most popular," says Cheung.
The company has two factories in Guangdong, one employing 1,000 workers and the other 500. Heyros' production averages 960,000 units monthly, comprising 60% of the company's total output. Raw materials such as spring hinges are imported from Italy, and lenses come from China and Taiwan.
The minimum order size Heyro will accept for sunglasses is 3,600 per model and 12,000 per shipment. The FOB Hong Kong price range is US$8-20 per dozen, depending on the lenses and the model, Cheung says. Delivery normally takes 45-60 days after receipt of an L/C.
OEM orders are accepted, and the company has no brand of its own. "We are planning to expand into new markets," asserts Cheung. "We want to move into markets such as South Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, Japan and Australia."
Established in 1966, Int'l Optical Mfg Co Ltd makes a range of sunglasses models, including one with electric blue reflective lenses most likely to be popular with fashion-conscious young people. According to Willy Yau, assistant sales manager, the company's major markets are Italy, France, Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
"We make sunglasses, prescription frames in metal and plastic and a combination of plastic and metal," says Yau. "Output of sunglasses amounts to 55% of total output." The company obtains its plastic from Italy, spring hinges from Germany and lenses from Germany and France. "We have a design department in Hong Kong and we are planning to set up one in China," says Yau. The company already has a factory in Shenzhen.
"OEM orders comprise between 70% and 80% of output," says Yau. "Our own brands are Solex and Sazon". The company plans to expand its markets. "There is a lot of potential in the US," says Yau. "We will try to increase our market share there."
Int'l Optical seeks orders of at least 600 pieces per model in assorted colours and sizes. The price range is US$5-15 FOB Hong Kong apiece and deliveries normally take about 90 days after receipt of an L/C.
Ocean Optical Mfg Co, set up in 1980, makes sunglasses and cellulose and acetate frames. According to director Victor Ng, Canada and the US comprise the company's major markets, with some output going to Australia, Germany, the UK, France and Sweden.
The company's 12,000-square-foot factory in Dongguan employs about 100 workers and its average monthly output of sunglasses is about 15,000 pairs, all made to OEM specifications.
"We import raw material from agents," says Ng. "Acetate cellulose frames come originally from Japan and Italy, and Monel, a combination of metals used to make frames, comes from Japan and Germany through agents."
The minimum order size accepted is 300 pieces per model. FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$4 to US$7 per unit. Delivery is normally made 75 days after order confirmation. "In the past, metal frames were popular but in the last few years, acetate have begun to gain in popularity," says Ng. "They are more durable and people do not get skin irritations as they sometimes do in the case of metal frames."
Ng says Ocean Optical is planning to expand into new markets. "We are focusing on Russia and East Europe, South Africa and Argentina for expansion," he explains. "In our present market, demand is not very stable."
Tung Fong Int'l Promotion Co Ltd, set up in 1988, makes cigarette lighters and shavers in addition to sunglasses. According to Alice Chan, the operations are independent of each other, although all the products are produced at a 20,000-square-foot factory in Zhejiang province, near Shanghai. The Tung Fong Light Ind Co Ltd employs about 100 workers for the sunglasses operations.
The firm's average monthly output of sunglasses is 500,000 pairs. The lenses come from Japan and the frames from Australia. Major markets are the UK, France, Spain, Dubai and Jordan.
The minimum order size accepted is 1,200 pieces per model, and prices are US$0.20-2 per pair FOB Hong Kong. Deliveries arrive 20-25 days after order confirmation.
Written by Austin Lobo
A CLASSIC CASE
IN the not-too-distant past, spectacle cases were available in only a limited number of shapes and colours. In recent years, however, as spectacles have gained ground as a fashion accessory and a high-profile designer product,
so too have their cases. Today's consumers are demanding a whole range of colours, designs and materials. At the centre of the world's optical industry, Hong Kong manufacturers produce a range of spectacle cases to more than satisfy demand.
"We are constantly adding innovative designs to our already large range," says Agnes Poon, assistant manager at Qualipak Mfg Ltd. "Our customers are looking for a great variety of materials and colours, and we can give them that choice." Qualipak has been in operation since 1989 and its factory in China now produces in the region of two million cases per month. Its range of metal cases includes a series of very brightly patterned designs with imitation leather and suede coverings. Markets extend throughout Europe, the US and the Middle East and the company manufactures to specification, with prices depending on the size of order and individual requirements. Delivery time is 4-8 weeks.
Lily Royce Mfg Co Ltd has been making spectacle cases since 1980 for customers from all parts of the globe. "Our major customers are in the US and Europe. The former tend to be more price conscious, whereas the Europeans are more interested in the design," explains sales manager Lawrence Ko. Lily Royce produces high-quality metal cases in brass and stainless iron, with a selection of finishes and coverings, including silver and gold electro-plating, lacquer painting and silk brocade. The price range is US$1.70-3.40 per piece FOB Hong Kong.
"We have our own brands, but many of our customers want their own design or logo, which we are very happy to arrange," continues Ko. "We have built up a very good relationship with our customers, based on high quality, competitive prices and a good delivery time." Lily Royce offers a delivery time of 30-45 days and requires a minimum order value of US$3,500.
Established just three years ago, Victoria Enter-prises Ltd already produces upwards of 300,000 spectacle cases per month at its factories in China. "Our designs are very innovative, fashionable and chic, factors which appeal to our customers," says director Rosemary Tsui. "We produce a full range of quality products for the US and Australian markets, and are now rapidly increasing business in Japan, where our designs are proving popular." Victoria's current range includes aluminium and tin models with flip tops and others with high-tech powder-coated finishes, with a unit price range of US$0.80-3 FOB Hong Kong. The company requires a minimum order of 2,000 pieces andpromises delivery in 45-60 days.
Goodrich Enterprise Co manufactures a range of metal cases including tin-plated and chrome-plated models for the US and the UK markets. Founded in 1994, Goodrich now produces more than 300,000 units per month. "Our company has grown quickly because of our good service, reasonable prices and fast delivery time," summarises manager Ada Ngai. Prices start at US$0.50 and US$1.30 FOB Hong Kong for the tin-plated and chrome-plated models respectively, but prices also depend on the quantity ordered. Goodrich asks for a minimum order of 2,000 per model and has a delivery time of 45-60 days.
New Optic Mfg Co has been producing spectacles since 1980 and, following many requests from its customers, started producing cases two years ago. Production is now up to 400,000 cases per month and business is growing. "We have a worldwide customer base and the company is expanding, particularly in Asia, the US and Europe," explains sales manager Eric Ha. "Each year I attend exhibitions in the US and Italy to see our existing customers and promote new products. Customer relations are very important to us." Unit prices start at US$0.50 FOB Hong Kong but are dependent on the size of the order.
Another expanding company is Tai Shing Stationery Mfy Ltd, which manufactures an assortment of PVC, metal and drawstring pouch spectacle cases. The company was established back in 1966 and its current monthly production is 50,000-100,000 pieces. Prices and delivery time are dependent on the materials used and the order size, with PVC cases starting at HK$1.40 (US$0.18) and metal cases at HK$16.70 FOB Hong Kong. "Good quality, excellent prices and a fast delivery time all help to satisfy our customers," comments Raymond Wong, Tai Shing's assistant supervisor.
Genesis Asia Ltd, founded in 1994, produces a line of cases in metal and plastic. "Plastic cases start at US$0.40 and metal cases at US$0.70 FOB Hong Kong," explains business director Horatius Wong. "We specialise in customised orders and always do our best to meet our clients' requirements. Quality is also an important factor in our business and with advanced design and technical support from our Italian office, we are able to maintain the best possible quality." Genesis produces 300,000 pieces per month. It requires a minimum order of 1,000 pieces and offers a delivery time of 45-60 days.
Written by Simon Saunders
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