8 March 2006
Making A Mark(HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 01,2006)
Heng Ngai Jewelry Group
|Heng Ngai Jewelry Group offers more than 50,000 designs aimed at the middle market|
The Heng Ngai Jewelry Group has come a long way since founder Johnny Yau started out as a door-to-door salesman more than two decades ago.
He must have been an extremely persuasive salesman, because within a short time he owned his first factory in Hong Kong and was producing all the jewellery he sold.
Manufacturing then moved to Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland, and in November 2000 to Panyu, where the Heng Ngai Jewelry Group (HNJ) has established what amounts to a self-contained community built around its manufacturing facility.
"We have more than 2,000 workers in Panyu," explains company spokesman Desmond Chan. "They enjoy dormitory accommodation, a swimming pool, sports facilities, shops and a canteen, so it's a very nice place to live and work."
It is also a commitment on the part of the group to a loyal workforce, which includes many employees who have been with HNJ companies for 20 years or more.
Their efforts have seen HNJ develop to the point where it currently offers more than 50,000 designs generated by a design team that produces another 30-50 every day.
"We are aiming at the middle market, with items mostly priced above US$50 FOB Hong Kong," Chan says, adding that diamond bracelets are sometimes more expensive because of the weight.
Prices are established according to the market price of the gold and gemstones, plus the labour costs involved in producing each piece, with the result that more intricate work tends to be more expensive.
Business is "worldwide", but the group focuses primarily on North America and maintains sales offices in both Dallas and San Francisco.
The US takes "significant" volumes, according to Chan, as it offers the steadiest demand for jewellery in HNJ's price range. "The US treats these items as fashion - not as jewellery," he insists, noting that US consumers "buy a lot and change a lot".
Most of the jewellery they buy is gem-set jewellery in 10K, 14K and 18K gold, which is developed according to the demands of different markets. "The US market likes 14K while in the UK it's more 9K, and they sometimes like white gold and sometimes yellow gold," Chan observes.
He says that HNJ supplies big department stores and TV channels in the US. "We are supplying TV channels in the European market, and some big importers, while TV is also important in Australia," Chan says. "We have sales people travelling all over the world."
Popular lines in all markets include diamond rings, pendants and bracelets, while rings are often solitary diamonds with 1 carat or 2 carat stones. "We buy gold in Hong Kong and gems all over the world - particularly India and Thailand where we have long relationships with suppliers," Chan declares. "There are many new stones - we learn from our suppliers because demand for new stones is very high."
One important new development for the group, and the basis of a whole new range of jewellery, is the introduction to the Panyu factory of a new gold stamping technique called "stampado" (sometimes spelled stampato).
"Until recently Italy had a monopoly on the techniques, the skilled labour and the machines for this process," Chan explains. "Now we are able to make these items and we are going to promote them to our US customers."
Stampado allows for the production of intricate items that would previously have had to be made by casting, thus reducing production costs and eventual retail prices.
"We think items such as bracelets and lockets produced using this process will be very popular as they are now much more affordable," Chan predicts. "Stamping reduces the gold weight of a bracelet from 10 grams to 4-5 grams, so the weight is lower and the price is more attractive."
HNJ also recognises the importance of customer service, producing samples within two weeks and generally delivering orders in 4-6 weeks, unless special stones are required.
"There are no minimum orders, even if it's just one ring," Chan concludes with a smile. "We own our own factory, so we can just add one more to a production run."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Heng Ngai Jewelry Group
1/F, Heng Ngai Jewelry Centre,
4 Hok Yuen St East,
Kowloon, Hong Kong