31 March 2004
Timely Ideas(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2004)
Hong Kong Brands
A Shining Success
Carich Time Ltd
Carich Time Ltd offers its own-brand watches to international markets
A growing number of Hong Kong watch manufacturers are developing their own brands to target specific markets and increase their competitiveness. Among them, Carich Time Ltd has emerged as a leading player by establishing brands through a well-managed process of research and development as well as licensing arrangements.
Sales director Jeffrey Chan says the development of the company's own brands has reinforced its strengths and fuelled business growth. "Furthermore, it is not desirable to place too much emphasis on OEM business as it may not be so reliable in generating revenues. By establishing our own brands, we can better control quantity and quality," he adds.
Over the years, Carich Time has built up two brands, Laurier and Kago, and secured a licensed brand, Speedo.
Chan points out that the two house brands target different markets with different designs and clearly defined market positioning.
"Laurier was developed 10 years ago for the European and US markets. The products are fashionable and target customers in the middle range sector," says Chan.
"On the other hand, Kago makes and sells products for the mainland market. These products are mainly stainless steel watches aimed at the higher-end market segment," he adds.
According to Chan, the Kago product line, begun about three years ago, has been actively marketed in coastal cities on the mainland where people have higher purchasing power. To boost sales, Carich Time has engaged mainland agents to distribute the products and also set up sales counters in department stores.
Developing brands has not been the only answer to business growth. The shrewd watchmaker has also seized the expansion opportunity offered by licensing arrangements. For example, Carich Time successfully secured a license to produce sports watches under the Speedo brand about four years ago. An Italian designer oversees the line's styling concepts.
"Licensing offers another channel to develop brand names and fuel business expansion," Chan explains.
Carich Time runs a 100,000-square-foot factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland, employing 1,000 workers. The production facility has received ISO 9002 certification.
"For large scale manufacturing facilities, good management is very important to ensure the supply of good quality products," Chan says. "Our strengths in technical and production capabilities are driving business growth. We can provide complete in-house support to customers on both technical and production aspects. This guarantees that information about customers' products will be kept in strict confidence and that product pricing will be competitive."
To enhance its R&D efforts, Carich Time takes into account ideas and comments on product designs from importers and distributors, Chan says. "Customer feedback is also of great importance in understanding market needs."
Brand products now account for 40% of total sales for Carich Time and are expected to continue to expand on increasing market demand.
Chan says Speedo is expanding in terms of sales volume and the number of buyers. "Sales of Kago products are growing at a similar pace as demand on the mainland increases. The Laurier line maintains steady growth despite intense market competition in the US and Europe."
Chan emphasises that the key to success is to build up a strong sales network and a clear positioning of product lines catering to specific markets. He adds that OEM business has given Carich Time a good advantage in establishing its sales network, which will expand through new distributors and franchisees, as well as sales points in department stores on the mainland.
Looking ahead, Chan notes that the Speedo line will develop further in terms of the hi-tech aspect to cope with demand. Plans are for the launch of Speedo sales promotions through magazine advertisements and tie-ups with large-scale sports events, including possible sponsorships at the Athens Olympics. It will also launch more new designs or items every year, especially this year.
Chan says Kago will release new models every six months on the mainland where sturdy and heavy watches have seen consistent demand. Timepieces made with a mix of materials such as steel and plastics are popular at the moment.
Meanwhile, fashionable designs re essential to the Laurier product line. Demand changes frequently with market trends and accordingly new models are being released every month. With a timely range of products, Carich Time has thus managed to retain its appeal in key markets.
WRITTEN BY VANAPA ONGVISES