13 May 2008
Champion Choice(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 05,2008)
Sports, Camping & Fitness
Coupling environmental concerns with aesthetics looks to be a sure winner in the sporting goods sector
Safety and aesthetics reign in the design of sports and fitness products today - while eco-friendly and protective materials are used increasingly, plain-vanilla gear is also getting an artistic makeover.
For example, the range from Taiwan-based Foam Max Enterprise Co Ltd includes foam rubber fitness equipment in clean-line designs and appealing colours such as green and purple. "Foam rubber is safer to use and cheaper than metal," explains Sales Manager Helena Hsu.
The gear can be purchased individually or as a set, which features 3-6 items such as hand exercisers, dumb-bells, a skipping rope and a thigh master. A set is unit-priced at US$2.00-7.20 FOB Shenzhen.
"With these fitness products, people can train in the privacy of their own homes," states Ms Hsu, adding that the items are tailored to both men's and women's needs. "The dumb-bells can weigh 0.5kg for women, and go up to 2.5kg for men."
The company also offers brightly coloured baseball bats, tenpin bowling sets, croquet mallets, cricket bats, golf clubs and other sports items made of non-toxic EVA foam.
"In the past two years, we've made baseball bats with a wood grain look that has proved very popular," Ms Hsu says. A baseball and bat set sells for US$1.50, while a bowling set with tenpins, two balls and a mat costs US$11.
For lovers of water-related activities, Maris (HK) Sports Goods Co Ltd offers a colourful range of swimming goggles, swimming caps, masks, snorkels and fins.
One of the firm's most popular sellers is a PVC/silicone diving mask featuring anti-fog tempered glass (model M4249), unit-priced at US$5 FOB Shenzhen.
"The mask fits the face like a gasket," says General Manager Ricky Yu.
Based in Guangzhou, the enterprise also manufactures a variety of other sports equipment, including basketballs, footballs, dartboards, table tennis sets and skipping ropes. "Our customers want more colourful products," Mr Yu remarks, noting that some items such as basketballs are available in imaginative designs or standard styles.
Other hot sellers include a high-quality, tournament-compliant table tennis set comprising two paddles, three balls and a net that costs US$2.26 per set.
Another major industry player is Stallion (Asia) Ltd, the Hong Kong arm of US-based Stallion Sport, a well-established sporting goods manufacturer with a focus on water, outdoor and snow sports.
The enterprise markets and manufactures for such recognizable brands as Speedo, Sea-Doo, Maui & Sons, Custom X and Body Glove.
A popular series is Stallion's fully moulded, hand-crafted bodyboard range (US$10-40 each FOB China), made in models that can be used either recreationally or for professional performance.
"We've employed new moulding techniques so that the board is not so flat, offering more grip and control for the rider. We use foil backing to make the bottom slicker, which makes the board go through the wave quicker," says Sales and Merchandising Manager Christina Landrichinger. Printed patterns on the bottom of the board satisfy a growing customer desire for more creativity and individuality.
Stallion's line of personal flotation devices (PFDs) is available in a choice of either nylon (US$6-20 each) or neoprene (US$15-35 each). "We were one of the first to work with neoprene, which has more flotation than nylon and is more comfortable to wear," Ms Landrichinger claims, adding that the firm began selling neoprene PFDs in 1998.
"Now we've made a big step forward by introducing more eco-friendly material for PFDs; replacing traditional neoprene with the 100% petroleum-free Eco-Prene in our high-end range, and using environmentally friendly Bio-Foam," she says.
"We hope our latest innovations will set an example for the industry and stimulate the use of non-petroleum based materials."
She adds that Stallion's other core category - high-end neoprene wetsuits - is also increasingly in demand. New material and design technologies create suits that fit better, are suitable for different levels of surfing and can also be worn by triathletes.
Design is one of the company's major selling points. "We have a good knowledge of what the market needs and we can custom-make special designs," Ms Landrichinger says.
New functional features combined with artwork have created an updated appeal for scooters made by Hong Kong-based Nicer Holdings Ltd. The company offers eight scooter models, two of them electric. Its Evo-Drifter push scooter, to be launched this year, is equipped with a steering system that allows riders to perform tricks and stunts.
"The steering system lets the user slide sideways and drift," explains Marketing Manager Ricky Ngai, noting that the item, marketed for children aged five and up, sells at an estimated unit price of US$40 FOB Shenzhen.
The firm's Fury Animals line of scooters features an in-house series of animated characters that also appear on the company's skateboard models. "Instead of buying a licence for other cartoon characters, we developed our own. We think they give our products added value," Mr Ngai maintains.
With today's sports and fitness products fit for champions, the athletic type is clearly spoilt for choice.
TEXT BY BRANDI BARKER